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BSEN 3310 Hydrostatic Pressure Lab Report

Will Haygood, Group 5

In this lab students are introduced to the Edibon Hydrostatics Pressure system which is used to
measure the resultant forces of a liquid on submerged surfaces.  In engineering, understanding
the enviornment, forces in a system, and properties of substances are dramatically important to
understanding a problem as a whole. With this information, scientists and engineers can form
equations that predict other important values. Often engineers and scientists have to design
systems that can operate effectively in water. Society today relies on global trade, most of which
is conducted by enormous shipping vessels that operate in the oceans, so understanding the
forces which water produces on a system is of utmost importance in our world today. When
designing a system involving a liquid one important property to understand is hydrostatic
pressure. Hydrostatic Pressure is the pressure exerted by a fluid on a submerged body, at a
specific point within the fluid. Because of how prevalent water and liquids are in the world
today, the Hydrostatic Pressure lab is an excellent way of providing students experience with the
effects of hydrostatic pressure. In this lab students learn how the location and magnitude of
resultant hydrostatic forces change with liquid depth. 

In any system that is submerged or partially submerged in a liquid it is crucial to understand the
properties of that fluid because any unaccounted for change in fluid properties could lead to the
malfunction of the entire system. Hydrostatic pressure is a result of these properties. Hydrostatic
Pressure is when the fluid is static, meaning there is no relative motion between adjacent fluid
layers, and the only stress present is normal stress (pressure). (Çengel 2018). Using our
knowledge of mathematics and science, hydrostatic pressure can be simplified to a resultant
force acting on a single point of a submerged surface. Some real world applications of designing
around hydrostatic forces are bridges, dams, offshore oil rigs, etc. While hydrostatic pressure
cannot be directly measured, knowing some properties and the correct equation provides the
location and the magnitude of the resultant hydrostatic pressure force. The properties and values
that are important in solving for this include; dimensions of the submerged body, orientation of
the body and the distances to the surface of the water from the top and bottom of the body. Other
variables that are external to the system include atmospheric pressure, density and gravity. With
today’s technology there is no other way to find hydrostatic pressure magnitude and location
other than using measurable values and their corresponding equations. These calculations may
seem trivial to some but are actually the difference between life and death for people that use
bridges, live down river from dams, or work on oil rigs. One prime example of this is the
Johnstown Flood of 1889 during which over 2200 people died, 1600 homes were destroyed, $17
million dollars in property damages, and 99 entire families were killed (jaha.org, 2020). This
flood was caused by the failure of the South Fork Dam due to the hydrostatic pressure of the
water held by it. Failure to accurately calculate the magnitude and location of forces on
structures of immense size and stature can cause irreversible damage to communities, families,
land, etc. Because of this, it is extremely important for students studying engineering to see
firsthand the way hydrostatic pressure works and to be able to accurately calculate the magnitude
and location of these forces. 
The purpose of this lab was to measure the effect that the depth of a liquid at rest had on the
location and magnitude of the resultant force on a partially and fully submerged system, and to
validate the accuracy of theoretical equations used to estimate the magnitude and location of the
force resulting from hydrostatic pressure. 

Materials and Methods.

The materials used during this lab to measure magnitude and location of the resultant force
included; the Edibon Hydrostatics system and weights of 10, 50 and 100 grams. The edibon
system is best described as a rectangular tank with a pivoting arm holding a curved three
dimensional plastic piece in the tank with an am extending past the end of the tank where mass is
added. Trial #1 was used to obtain measurements of mass (grams) and depth (mm) for a partially
submerged system. To begin the tank was filled with water until the surface of the water was
parallel to the measurement lines on the curved plastic. This depth was recorded and for a mass
of 0 grams and a height of 0mm. Then, 10 grams was added to the arm extending past the tank
and water was added until the surface of the water and measurement lines were parallel again.
This process was repeated until we reached a depth measurement of about 100mm and recorded
twelve correlating mass and depth data sets. This would conclude measurements for Trial #1.
Trial #2 was very similar, but measured the mass and depth of a fully submerged system. We
added mass 50 grams at a time beginning at 250 grams and ending at 450grams, adding water
and recording the depths for each mass as we went. Just as a note, we had to add a data point at
420 grams because increasing by 50 grams did not provide enough data sets to accurately test the
equations later on. Once we completed our measurements, we individually used equations 1-7
from the lab handout to calculate theoretical height, distance from center of pressure, hydrostatic
force, and percent relative error for each recorded mass value using excel. As another note,
equations 1-3 were used for trial #1 and equations 4-6 were used for trial #2. 

Results and Discussion.

Equations 1-7 (referenced below)

Figure 1. Mass (kilograms) vs. Theoretical Height (meters)

To produce this graph, we used the mass values from Trial #1 along with equation one to show
how the required depth of water changes as mass is increased for a partially submerged system.
This trend can be seen as the blue dots in Figure 1. The second trend shown on the graph was
obtained using the mass values for Trial #2 and equation four in order to show the relationship
between mass and liquid depth for a fully submerged system. This trend can be seen as the
orange dots in Figure 1. Directly related to this in Trial #1 was the hydrostatic pressure, which
increased as the depth of the water increased and more of the upright surface of the plastic came
into contact with the water. This relationship is shown in Figure 4. 

Figure 2. Theoretical Height (meters) vs. Actual Height (meters)

Figure 2 compares the depth of the liquid we measured in the lab to the theoretical depth of the
liquid we calculated using equations one and four, for Trial #1 and Trial #2 respectively. The
R^2 values shown in the figure would be exactly “one” if the theoretical values and measured
values were identical. Since these values are so close to one it is safe to assume that the
experiment was done correctly and that the measured values are accurate enough to use, but they
are not perfect. This is further discussed in Figure 5 where relative percent error between the
theoretical height and actual height is graphed. 
Figure 3. Hydrostatic Pressure vs. Actual Height (meters)

This graph shows the calculated distance to the center of pressure for both the partially and fully
submerged systems versus the measured height for each mass value. From Figure 3 it can be
seen that as height increases, hydrostatic pressure decreases. This makes sense because the
system is getting further from atmospheric pressure and closer to the resultant hydrostatic force
of the water. This change decreases when fully submerged and thus the slope of the fully
submerged system is flatter and more stable than the partially submerged system.

Figure 4. Hydrostatic Force vs. Actual Height (m)

Figure 4 shows the relationship between hydrostatic force and actual height. To find values for
the hydrostatic force of Trial #1 and Trial #2 we used equations three and six respectively. The
graph of trial #1, shown as blue dots, is not linear in nature, this makes sense because the surface
is initially exposed to only air but as more and more of the surface becomes submerged the
addition of liquid has more of an effect. This occurs until the entire surface of the plastic is
covered and the piece is fully submerged. This is further confirmed by the graph of trial #2
during which the HF increased almost perfectly linearly. In equation three the density of the
water (1000kg/m^3) is divided by two because the water does not have an effect over the whole
surface of an object that is only partially submerged. While in equation six the density is not
divided because the entire surface of the object is submerged in the water. 
Figure 5. Relative Percent Error (%) vs. Actual Height (meters)

Relative percent error was calculated using equation seven. In equation seven “y” represents the
theoretical height and “h” represents the actual height. From the graph the average relative
percent error was 13.9 % for trial #1 and 7.5 % for trial #2. During trial #1 the graph appears
more sporadic, because there is more change and less consistency when the system is only
partially submerged. While in trial #2 the trend is more linear, though not perfect, there is more
stability when the system is fully submerged because the Hydrostatic Force increases linearly.
Thus, more consistent forces lead to less error. See Figure 4 for proof. 

After observing all the data, measured and calculated, there are some major generalizations we
can make about hydrostatic pressure and its related properties as a whole. As the height
increases, the distance to the center of pressure decreases. This in turn, increases the Hydrostatic
force because more of the surface of the system is submerged as the height of the liquid increases
(Figure 3 and 4). It should also be noted that as the actual height increased the difference
between the actual height and theoretical height values also decreased. This could be for a
variety of reasons. It could be that as more water was added to the tank the plastic piece rested
with more stability because it’s harder to move through a liquid than air. It could also be that as
the lab progressed we got better at taking more accurate measurements of the system. Either
way, some amount of human error is always involved when conducting an experiment. The most
important takeaway from this lab is that hydrostatic pressure increases with depth. It is also
important to factor in the shape of the measurement device, which in this case was already done
for us in the equations, all we had to do was plug in values. Understanding how to calculate
hydrostatic pressure, force, and all of the other related figures is extremely important because it
has a direct effect of the safety of the people that use it and on the environments they are in. 

Y. Çengel, and J M Cimbala. Fluid Mechanics Fundamentals and Applications. 4th ed.,
McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.

N. Coleman, U. Kaktins, and S. Wojno. “Dam-Breach Hydrology of the Johnstown Flood of

1889-Challenging the Findings of the 1891 Investigation Report.” Heliyon. U.S. National
Library of Medicine, June 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27441292/. 

“Facts about the 1889 Flood.” Johnstown Area Heritage Association, December 11, 2019.

G. Wang, Y. Liu, and J. Xu. “Short‐Term Failure Mechanism Triggered by Hydraulic

Fracturing.” Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, November 11, 2019.