Research & U: Mechanical Engineering

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By Joshua Ostrer

The mechanical engineering department has boasted a number of senior projects resulting in further research. This year’s projects range from “Design of a Flying Prey Simulator” to “Rugby Ball vs. Football: How do Aerodynamics Impact Punting Distances?” Erin Villeneuve’s senior project is entitled “Optimal Design and Blade Configuration of Vertical Axis Win Turbines to Help Improve Efficiency and Decrease Harmful Environmental Effects.”

“My project is a combination of research and design. I am prototyping two different airfoil designs to hopefully improve the overall lift and drag ration acting on the blades. This will help to improve efficiencies as well. There are four main stages to my project, with which I will compare blade designs and angle of attacks,” she said. Many of the department’s senior projects end up having an impact outside of the classroom. Last year, Sam Barstow ‘11 completed the project “Development of a System to Quantify Perpendicular Forces Between the Foot and a Shoe” and is now in the process of founding his own footwear company.

“Statistically speaking, at least some of this year’s projects will carry on to something bigger,” said mechanical engineering Chair Brad Bruno. Villeneuve has bigger plans for her own senior project. “With the data collected, the knowledge gained from this project could help to encourage more use of such systems in urban settings. This could help lessen environmental impact caused by larger horizontal counterparts. Once this project is completed, other aspects of the blade designed can be investigated to further improve efficiencies and ratios,” she explained.

In addition to student research projects, the mechanical engineering department also competes in both the SAE Aero competition and the human-powered-vehicle competition. Union’s human-powered-vehicle team, which raced for the first time last year, even got to compete on an Indycar track. For anyone interested in what the senior projects this year or last have covered, they are all presented on posters on the second floor of Steinmetz Hall.

Look forward next week to an article on physics senior projects.

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