NASA wind tunnel gift to be model for success

John Hitch

The College of Technology plans to reverse-engineer the wind tunnel donated yesterday by NASA to build a bigger, more powerful version, the aeronautics division coordinator said.

The 70-pound, 4-foot desktop model will serve as a template for aeronautics students planning to make a 20-foot fixed wind tunnel for the Van Deusen Hall propulsion lab.

I. Richmond Nettey, senior program director for aeronautics, said the college’s lone wind tunnel “will support practical experimentation and design work in aerodynamics and aircraft structures.”

NASA Glenn Research Center engineers teamed with Cleveland-area students as part of an educational initiative to create the prototype. Kent State received the wind tunnel through the collaboration between NASA engineer Tom Benson and Kent State’s Lois Sumegi, director of constituent development, and Major Maureen McFarland, aeronautics division coordinator.

“Practical application is what we do,” McFarland said of the need for a tangible model to base the larger tunnel on, as opposed to just technical diagrams.

“It’s much easier than looking at drawings or 3-D computer (images).”

To serve its purpose, the wind tunnel must simulate the same force applied to Kent State’s Cessna fleet, so it will be built to recreate 130- to 200-mph winds. The smaller version barely musters a gust, generating relatively breezy 20-mph winds.

McFarland said the future version will also benefit the college’s manufacturing division, which could test the aerodynamics of automobile designs in the tunnel. The high-velocity air could also assist College of Architecture and Environmental Design students wanting to verify if their designs could survive hurricane-force winds.

McFarland and her Aircraft Design and Applied Flight Dynamics classes plan to start the project this semester. Students in aircraft structures will also work on designing the practical model, which McFarland said shouldn’t take more than a year to complete.

Contact College of Technology reporter John Hitch at [email protected].