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Aerodynamic Drag Reduction: A Design/Build/Test Experience For High School Students

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.144.1 - 6.144.9

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Paper Authors

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Terry Beck

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For several years at Kansas State University, as part of the annual Engineering and Science Summer Institute (ESSI) Program, participating high school students have been assigned the task of designing, constructing and testing streamlined rocket models of their own design. The rocket models are constructed from readily available construction materials consisting of hardwood dowel rods for the rocket body and rectangular block balsa wood for the fins. Their assignment is to modify (streamline) and assemble their rocket in such a manner as to minimize the aerodynamic drag. They are not allowed to alter the overall length of the rocket body (rod), the front view profile area, or the planform area of the fins. The students work in teams of two and the first of two class periods is devoted to the design/construction phase of the assignment. They are given a “kit” consisting of an assortment of materials and “tools” to assist them in the streamlining and assembly task. During the second class period each design group is assigned the task of testing their design using the wind tunnel in the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department. The rocket models are mounted on an electronic balance in the wind tunnel and the measured drag force for each of the designs is compared against a “poor” rocket design with virtually no streamlining, and against designs from the other competing design groups. This paper describes the authors’ experience with high school students involved in this hands-on design/build/test activity, as a means of introducing them to the principles of aerodynamic streamlining, along with a presentation of some of the typical quantitative results.

Beck, T. (2001, June), Aerodynamic Drag Reduction: A Design/Build/Test Experience For High School Students Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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