Weather in a Tank

Rotating Fluid Experiments - Student Survey

Please respond to the following questions based on your experience with the rotating tank experiments.

1. University you currently attend:

2. College level: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Graduate

3. Major: Atmospheres/Oceans/Climate Environmental Science Other Sciences (e.g. Physics, Chemistry) Other (Please specify)

4. Gender: Male Female

5. Climatology or Atmospheric Science course(s) you've taken in the past two years in which the rotating tank experiments were used:

6. Please check all of the experiments used in your course(s) over the past two years.

Solid Body Rotation: Parabolic shape taken up by the free surface of water in solid body rotation.
Dye Stirring: Interwoven flow patterns demonstrating atmospheric and oceanic flows.
Balanced Motion: The balance of forces in a rotating frame demonstrating the flow of water down a drain hole.
Fronts: Two bodies of water of differing densities demonstrating atmospheric fronts in the rotating system.
Ekman Layers: Ageostrophic flow in a bottom Ekman layer is investigated in high and low pressure surfaces.
General Circulation: The Hadley circulation and middle-latitude weather systems are studied in a rotating annulus.
Convection: The evolution of convective boundary layers and convection plumes - an analogue of dry atmosphere and oceanic convection.
Taylor Columns: The rigidity imparted to a fluid by rotation is demonstrated by studying flow over a submerged obstacle.
Density Currents: The role of density differences in driving fluid motion - an experiment first carried out by Marsigli in 1695.
Ekman Pumping-Suction: Cyclonic and anticyclonic circulations - using fans blowing air over the surface of water - studying the role of Ekman layers in inducing vertical motion.
Ocen Gyres: Western intensification of the wind-driven circulation demonstrated by setting up a gyre in the presence of topographic beta.
Thermohaline Circulation: Thermohaline circulation of the ocean is demonstrated in a rendition of the classic Stommel-Arons experiment.
Source/Sink Flow: Flow from source to sink on a topographic beta plane is studied as an analogue of mid-depth/abyssal circulation in the ocean.
Other (Please describe experiment below.) Other (Please describe experiment below.) Other (Please describe experiment below.)

7. Who typically conducted the experiments in your course(s)? Check all that apply.
The course instructor
A teaching assistant
A student in the course
Other (Please specify):

8. How were the experiments used in your course(s)? Check all that apply.
Instructors used them to support a lecture and/or illustrate a concept or phenomenon.
Instructors used them in a laboratory setting.
Students used them in small group projects.
Individual students used them for research purposes.
Other (Please specify):

9. We would like to understand the extent to which you feel that these experiments enhanced your learning experiences in the course. Please indicate on the table below the extent to which you agree or disagree with each statement about the experiments.

Quality Factors

Unable to
The experiments helped me to better visualize a phenomena or a theoretical or abstract concept being taught.
I was motivated to ask questions and/or further engage in classroom discussions as a result of the experiments.
As a result of the experiments, I gained a deeper understanding of a phenomena and/or related concept being taught.
As a result of the experiments, I was motivated to do further study of the phenomenon that was demonstrated.
The demonstration(s) deepened my interest in the scientific process and/or the study of climatology and the atmospheric sciences.
Other (Please specify):

10. Did you do any of the following activities after viewing an experiment in class? Check all that apply.
Replicate or adapt an experiment.
Conduct further research on the phenomena that were demonstrated.
Present the experiment to another class or outside group.
Other (Please specify):

11. Did your instructor encourage you to use any of the following resources to extend your understanding of the experiment(s) used in the class? Check all that apply.
Text: Marshall, J. and A. Plumb (2007). Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: An Introductory Text. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Synoptic web site:
MIT's Weather in a Tank web site:
Other (Please specify):

12. Were there any challenges that you or your classmates encountered in using the project equipment or experiments? Check all that apply.
Class group was too large to view experiment.
Experiment(s) took time away from the lecture or course work.
Experiment(s) disrupted the flow of the class.
Experiment(s) didn't work.
Experiment was faulty or unreliable.
Experiment(s) weren't relevant to the class content.
Person conducting the experiment didn't connect the deomonstration(s) to the course content.
Other (Please specify):

13. In your opinion, did any of the demonstrations enhance your learning of a concept or phenomenon in any significant way?
Yes No

If yes, please give an example of how an experiment affected your learning (e.g., clarified misconceptions, helped you to visualize a phenomenon, etc.). What do you remember as being particularly constructive and/or successful? Also, reference the name of the experiment(s).

If no, please explain why you think these experiments have not been useful in your understanding of phenomena in the atmopsheric sciences.

14 Would you recommend that other universities incorporate the use of these types of experiments in their relevant science courses?
Yes No

15. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your experience with the rotating tank equipment and/or experiments used in your courses?

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Thank you for your responses.

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Copyright 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology