The tunnel-like chambers through which air is passed at different velocities are used to study airflow over an object like a plane or rocket. The automobile industry also uses wind tunnels in their research to produce more fuel efficient cars. Some of the wind tunnels in the United States are large enough to hold full size planes or rockets. One such tunnel is located at the Langley, NASA Research facility in Virginia. A supersonic tunnel is at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. A model of the shuttle was tested and perfected in this tunnel.
There are any number of small wind tunnels which you or students can construct. The one suggested here is a relatively simple one requiring minimum materials. If you would like to prepare a more sophisticated model, refer to additional sources such as science teacher resource manuals.
Have the students begin by building paper airplane models and testing the effects of manipulation of the control surfaces of the model. They should discover that to climb, the elevators are up; to dive the elevators are down; to turn right, the rudder is right, the right aileron is up, the left aileron is down; to turn left, the rudder is left, the left aileron is up and the right aileron is down.
Have the students investigate the effects of changing the center of gravity on the stability of the plane.
Have the students prepare and test model rockets in the tunnel before actual flight. Compare the actual flight results with the data collected from the wind tunnel tests. Have the students research wind tunnel testing on automobiles and investigate the spin offs from the science of aerodynamics to the auto industry.
Page Last Modified: 03/27/08 18:41 EDT
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