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Wind tunnel to boost undergraduate aerodynamics study

New wind tunnel.
Shown in the college's new wind tunnel facility are Engineering Physics Associate Professor Riccardo Bonazza, right, with Assistant Scientist Mark Anderson, left, and Associate Instrumentation Specialist Paul Brooks, background. Larger Image

Spring semester is about to start, and a new course is creating excitement in the Department of Engineering Physics. Associate Professor Riccardo Bonazza will use the college's new 200 mph wind tunnel in his new course, Applied Aerodynamics-EMA 601. The tunnel was the design project of engineering physics undergraduate students Matt Orzewalla and Marti Gissel during their senior year. (Bonazza is shown at right, with Assistant Scientist Mark Anderson, left, and Associate Instrumentation Specialist Paul Brooks, background)

The $85,000 wind machine was a gift from Greenheck Fan Corporation of Schofield, Wisconsin. Greenheck is a supplier of air movement and control equipment. Rockwell Automation donated the frequency drive to control the fan speed. The tunnel's test area is four feet wide and three feet tall and will allow students to test the performance of thin airfoils of varying aspect ratios over a range of wind speeds and angles of attack.

The wind tunnel is equipped with three sets of airfoils (NACA 2412, NACA 23012, NACA 63212, each in three different aspect ratios with between 12 and 20 pressure taps on each airfoil) and a 50-channel manometer bank. It also has a three-component sting balance instrumented with a set of strain gauges, connected to a computer-based data acquisition system.

Students taking the new applied aerodynamics course will work in groups using specially constructed wing models. Each group will carry out a detailed case study of one family of National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) profiles. Students will compare the results of their measurements to those of their numerical calculations and to the theoretical predictions from the material covered in the prerequisite EMA 521--Aerodynamics. Eight students are signed up to take the course in its second year, says Bonazza.

"The wind tunnel is the most important component of the course," says Bonazza. "The students are currently finishing their theoretical aerodynamics instruction. Now they will use the wind tunnel to collect experimental data and compare them with the prediction from the theory and with the results of numerical simulations they will run before going to the tunnel."

For size, maximum speed, available instrumentation and test models, the wind tunnel is a large scale, state-of-the-art facility. "For the students, it represents a unique opportunity to learn about experimentation in aerodynamics, and educationally it's a giant step up from doing only computer work in this area of study," Bonazza says. Because of the extensive use of the wind tunnel, the course qualifies as part of the experimental requirements of the EMA curriculum.

Bonazza and Associate Professor of Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering Leslie M. Smith also plan to develop a new research program for the study of turbulence related to turbomachinery flows. Velocity measurements from LDV and PIV systems will be used for comparison against the results of Smith's computational experiments.