Typically, when we talk about wind tunnels, we think of the big facilities in use by the aerospace and motorsports industries. However, there’s nothing stopping you building a wind tunnel of your very own, and it may even be easier than you think! [Jude Pullen] has whipped up just such a design with DIY in mind.
Intended for high school Design & Technology (D&T) classes, it uses relatively simple materials construction techniques. The airflow straightener is built out of PVC pipes, and the end boxes built out of cardboard. The transparent walls for observation are created out of acrylic, while a simple fan provides the necessary flow. The desk-sized wind tunnel can then be instrumented with a manometer, tachometer, and anemometer to measure pressure, fan speed, and wind speed. [Jude] also explores experiments that can be run in the wind tunnel, such as working with a small balsa wood glider and measuring the lift it generates with a scale.
[Jude] has a very pragmatic and real-world understanding of such projects, too. He notes the difference between making things to measure, and making them to fit, and highlights the values of both approaches. It’s a much more holistic approach than simply berating students to “do it right” or “do it better” when making things in a D&T class.
Use of a basic wind tunnel is often not taught to engineering students until at least the second or third year of an engineering degree, after all the boring math and static analysis has been dealt with. However, there’s no reason high school physics students can’t understand the physics involved, and they’re more than capable of undertaking such a build. Starting such education early often nets huge benefits for individuals and their eventual careers.
Once you’ve got yourself a wind tunnel, you might want to start thinking about some flow visualization, which gets really exciting.
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