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A technique often used in wind tunnels is to introduce smoke in front of the airfoil that is being tested. The smoke comes from regularly-spaced point sources, and the wind flow in the tunnel spreads it out into parallel lines, called streamlines. The streamlines make it possible to visualize the airflow over the airfoil. When the lines continue smoothly over and past the airflow, they show that the flow remains laminar, and that the airfoil is creating very little drag. When the streamlines show more chaotic, turbulent flow, they indicate that the airfoil is creating more drag. You can do something similar with a wind tunnel by stretching thin strings across the flow path, above and below your airfoil test zone. Clip them in place so you can move them up and down to fit different airfoil shapes. Attach a ribbon (about 25 cm long) to each string. Use a stick attached to your airfoil to hold it while you place it in the flow path, between the ribbons. The ribbons will act like the smoke streamlines, so that you can visualize whether the flow over your airfoil is turbulent or laminar. Try different airfoil shapes and measure which have the most laminar and the most turbulent flow. (Parker, 2005, 18–19)
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Humans have always longed to fly and to make other things fly, both through the air and into outer space—aerospace engineers are the people that make those dreams come true. They design, build, and test vehicles like airplanes, helicopters, balloons, rockets, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft.
Aviation inspectors are critical to ensuring that aircraft are safe to fly. They conduct pre-flight inspections to make sure an aircraft is safe. They also inspect the work of aircraft mechanics, and keep detailed records of work done to maintain or repair an aircraft. As problems are identified, they may make changes to maintenance schedules, and may be called upon to investigate air accidents.
Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their skills are in demand to design millions of different products in almost every type of industry.
Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are essential to the development of new aircraft and space vehicles. They build, test, and maintain parts for air and spacecraft, and assemble, test, and maintain the vehicles as well. They are key members of a flight readiness team, preparing space vehicles for launch in clean rooms, and on the launch pad. They also help troubleshoot launch or flight failures by testing suspect parts.
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