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Wind Turbines To Teach Parametric Design

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1375.1 - 14.1375.15



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Paper Authors


Smitesh Bakrania Rowan University

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Smitesh Bakrania is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Rowan University. He received his Ph.D. from University of Michigan in 2008 and his B.S. from Union College in 2003. His research interests include combustion synthesis of nanoparticles and their applications.

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William Riddell Rowan University

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William Riddell is an Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University. His research interests include design education, fatigue and fracture mechanics, transportation safety, and energy efficiency.

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Krishan Bhatia Rowan University

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Krishan Bhatia is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Rowan University. He received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 2004. His research interests include fuel cells, advanced powertrains and vehicle emissions.

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Leigh Weiss Rowan University

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Leigh Weiss is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at Rowan University.

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Kevin Dahm Rowan University

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Kevin Dahm is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. He has received the 2002 ASEE PIC-III Award, 2003 Joseph J. Martin Award, 2004 Raymond W. Fahien Award and 2005 Corcoran Award for his contributions to engineering education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


A project in which teams of students are asked to design and build horizontal axis wind turbine rotors is presented. The goal of each team was to develop the greatest electrical power output given the constraints of wind velocity, swept area, a specified hub and mounting. In practice, the design of wind turbines is extremely complex. Therefore, to make the project tractable to sophomore level undergraduates, significant constraints were placed on the problem statement, which allowed calculations to inform teams’ decisions. To evaluate design instances without constructing rotors, the students developed a computer program to predict turbine performance as function of rotor parameters. The faculty gave presentations to provide students with the requisite understanding to predict power output based on blade parameters such as angle, number, twist, shape and dimensions. As the students had differing levels of programming skills, an introductory lecture on MATLAB was presented. Since the design space was too large to systematically explore all the possible combinations, students were forced to develop design strategies that used existing turbine designs as starting points, or to develop their own strategies for searching the design space. The final designs were constructed and tested using a custom built wind tunnel. This paper describes the project implementation in detail; including the requisite theory to develop the rotor performance algorithm, the constraints imposed, materials supplied and details to allow reproduction of the testing apparatus. In addition, key insights in terms of assessment based on the student final reports are discussed.


Sophomore Engineering Clinic I and II (SEC I and SEC II) are part of the four-year long Engineering Clinic sequence at Rowan University that focuses on developing the so-called professional skills outlined in the ABET A-K criteria through project-based learning1. The Sophomore Engineering Clinic I and II are specifically charged with teaching design and communication, with the fall (SEC I) concentrating on parametric design and technical writing. The fall semester utilizes two projects lasting four and twelve weeks. The first project, involving bottle rocket design2, requires students to optimize three parameters, namely a wing dimension, clay mass and water volume, to achieve the longest flight. For the first project, teams are free to build and test any number of designs by systematically varying each parameter. However, the second project emphasizes optimization through simulation.

For the last five years the course featured a crane design project, where student teams maximized a strength to cost ratio3,4. The project objective involved the design and building of a crane to lift a specified load using aluminum and plastic structural members. While this project was felt to be pedagogically sound4, from a practical standpoint, it had two significant flaws. First, the crane was designed as a truss, a topic that is directly covered in Statics. While a project that reinforces coursework is felt to be a generally positive attribute, the different background of students from different disciplines led to too much stratification in the roles of team members. Two disciplines, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME), take statics concurrent to Sophomore Engineering Clinic I, while two disciplines,

Bakrania, S., & Riddell, W., & Bhatia, K., & Weiss, L., & Dahm, K. (2009, June), Wind Turbines To Teach Parametric Design Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5278

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