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Renovating an Ancient Low Speed Wind Tunnel: A Student Team Project Case Study

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1037.1 - 23.1037.13



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Paper Authors


Narayanan M. Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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Professor Dr. Narayanan Komerath is a professor of aerospace engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, and director of the Experimental Aerodynamics and Concepts Group and the Micro Renewable Energy Systems Laboratory. He has over 300 publications, over 120 of them peer-reviewed. He has three US Patents, and has guided fifteen Ph.D.s , 50+ M.S. and over 160 undergraduate research special problem projects. He is a former Chair of the Aerospace Division.

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Renovating an Ancient Low Speed Wind Tunnel: A Student Team Project Case Study   This is a student‐led paper. In the Spring of 2012, our student team was asked to participate in the repair/renovation of a major university low‐speed wind tunnel. The tunnel, built in the 1920s, had developed a water leak in its clutch system, and a decision was made to replace the entire clutch/ eddy current motor system with a variable frequency drive (VFD) motor system.   Several aspects of the tunnel’s operating features had to be extracted from archived drawings, reports and log books going back to 1929, itself an intense learning experience in the value, methods and future plans for documentation and archiving.    During the long shutdown period, the student team undertook a series of tunnel improvements and developed comprehensive documentation to support the future activities at the tunnel. This was a major learning exercise for the student team, which included two freshmen, two sophomores, juniors, seniors, and 3 graduate students. This is a student‐led paper describing this multi‐faceted project as a Case Study in learning to innovate, from an aerospace engineering perspective.   Several of the aspects covered are listed below:  1. Cell‐phone compatible Inventory Organization and Control System 2. Pressure‐washing a wind tunnel 3. Cleaning and repairing 80‐year‐old turning vanes with substantial impact and attrition damage, including the safety training and safety precautions needed, and composite fabrication and application.  4. Measuring the system inertia of the tunnel shaft, gearbox and propeller system, including video‐based analysis. 5. Predicting the performance of the tunnel in order to develop motor specifications and emergency braking parameters. 6. Measuring the fan geometry 7. Computing the theoretical performance of the tunnel fan.  8. Calibrating the open tunnel motor performance 9. Repairing the honeycomb in the settling chamber 10. Calibrating the turbulence in the test section 11. Planning a new fan system  Each of these activities was systematically documented, and the resulting Case Study is summarized in this paper.  The educational aspects are considered in each aspect from both the professor’s and student team’s points of view.    

Komerath, N. M. (2013, June), Renovating an Ancient Low Speed Wind Tunnel: A Student Team Project Case Study Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22422

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