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Freshmen Research Project: Design, Development, and Testing of Variable Pitch Propeller Thrust Measurement Apparatus - A Case Study

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.653.1 - 25.653.14



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Paper Authors


Adeel Khalid Southern Polytechnic State University

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Adeel Khalid, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Systems Engineering Program, Division of Engineering, Q-349, Southern Polytechnic State University, 1100 South Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30060, Office: 678-915-7241; Fax: 678-915-5527; Web:;

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Freshmen Research Project: Design, Development and Testing of Variable Pitch Propeller Thrust Measurement Apparatus – A Case StudyAbstractThe challenges associated with getting freshmen students involved in research studies mirrorthose of graduate level research. Often time undergraduate students are less prepared for aresearch study. They are looking for an experience as a means to determine career pathways. Thesupport mechanisms, evaluation structure, and reward systems for undergraduate students are notwell established or well defined and are still being developed in many institutions anddisciplines. In addition, funding mechanisms have not truly figured out how to properly evaluateand fund undergraduate research [1, 2, and 3]. Given those challenges, it is still important to getthem motivated and interested in the research in the discipline of their choice. In this research,with the help of a case study, few of the challenges of undergraduate research are discussed.Methods used to overcome those challenges are outlined.The goal of this research project is to design, develop, and test an inexpensive thrustmeasurement apparatus and get freshmen undergraduate engineering students involved in theresearch. A variable pitch propeller is used to study the effect of changing pitch on the thrust.Some of the other variables studied include the blade rotational speed, rotor chord, span, twistand taper ratio. Motor speed and propeller pitch are controlled by separate electronic speedcontrollers. The effect of other variables i.e. rotor blade chord, span, twist, and taper ratio arestudied by using separate blades of various specifications. Blades are designed using a ComputerAided Design (CAD) package i.e. Solid Works, and printed using 3D printer. The apparatus isdesigned to be robust enough to be used as laboratory equipment for future undergraduatestudents to conduct research projects and laboratory experiments in conjunction with theiraerospace courses. The apparatus will help students understand the principles of thrust and howvarious variables affect the thrust produced by propeller driven aircraft. The goal is to developthe entire system for minimum cost. Students get experience in designing the mechanicalhardware, electrical hardware and software. Students conducting the experiments will be able todetermine how the thrust varies as a function of the design parameters. Variable pitch propellerconcept is used in single and multi-engine propeller aircraft, and turbine engine compressorblades. Undergraduate freshmen PSLSAMP (Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for MinorityParticipation) students participated in this summer research project and decided to continue towork after the program was over. The design details, challenges, results and lessons learnt arediscussed in the paper.References 1. T. Goodwin, B. Holmes, ‘Challenges of engaging in research with undergraduate students,’, Last accessed on 10/4/11 2. Ann, Q. Gates, Patricia, J. Teller, Andrew Bernat, Nelly Delgado, ‘Meeting the challenge of expanding participation in undergraduate research experience,’ department of computer science, University of Texas at El Paso 3. Sarah, S. Adams, ‘Starting and maintaining an academic year undergraduate research program,’ Mathematical association of America,, Last accessed on 10/4/11

Khalid, A. (2012, June), Freshmen Research Project: Design, Development, and Testing of Variable Pitch Propeller Thrust Measurement Apparatus - A Case Study Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21410

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