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Education & Outreach

In addition to the research projects undertaken by our group, we engage in many different activities related to engineering education.  These efforts contribute to the important aspect of service outreach expected from public land-grant institutions such as The Ohio State University. Some past and present activities are described below.

Supported Course Projects

Aerospace Engineering 2200 (Fall Semester):  Weather Balloon Launch

Aerospace engineering students launched a scientific balloon to an altitude far above the jet stream to study environmental factors that affect aircraft design.

Students in the sophomore introductory class had hoped the 4-foot diameter balloon would reach an altitude of 100,000 feet — three times the cruising altitude of commercial airliners and the jet stream’s strongest winds.  The balloon sailed just a bit under that height, reaching 98,953 feet before bursting.  The mission of the balloon was to collect and analyze its GPS position and atmospheric conditions such as pressure and temperature. That data was transmitted from the balloon to two computers on the ground. Once the balloon landed, the students learned not only the maximum altitude, but also that it reached a maximum ground speed of 85 mph.  Learning about physical principles, such as how buoyancy force and drag affect the ascent rate of the balloon, were a few of the objectives of conducting the balloon launch, which took place at a farm near Plain City, northwest of Columbus. The balloon landed about 60 miles east of Plain City near Gratiot, Ohio. “The students are learning about the environment that aircraft fly through,” said Assistant Professor Jim Gregory. “That is essential in the aircraft design process. For example, how much lift the plane can generate versus its weight and how fast the aircraft can fly are dependent on what the pressure and temperature measurements are at a given altitude.”

“What we are doing is basically what the National Weather Service does at locations around the country two times every day,” Gregory explained. “They put this data into their models for forecasting.”

In addition to a weatherproof camera designed for adventurers and a consumer-grade video camera, the balloon was equipped with sensors to measure air pressure, altitude and temperature. The latex balloon eventually burst due to the changes in atmospheric pressure and descended to the ground via parachute. Gregory tracked it through its GPS readings to recover it after landing.

Senior Aircraft Design:  Airship Design for Landmine Detection

Supported by a grant from the Battelle Endowment for Technology and Human Affairs, a small group of students in the aerospace engineering program at The Ohio State University engaged in an international design collaboration with American University of Beirut, Lebanon.  The objective of the project was to design, build, and test a lighter-than-air vehicle with a mission of aerial landmine detection.  The Ohio State team was tasked with full design of the airship, including aerodynamic and structural analysis, while the electronics payload was developed by the American University team.  With obvious importance to civilian safety in war-stricken areas, this project was also aimed at developing globally competent engineers.  Both teams had the opportunity to travel to their foreign counterparts in person to carry out parts of the design work.  The OSU design team was advised by Prof. Jim Gregory with former graduate research associate Chris Jensen (M.S., 2012) serving as co-advisor.


High School Outreach

AFCAD Hosts Women in Engineering Group at AARL

In summer 2009, the research group hosted a group of 30 senior high school women as part of the Women in Engineering Summer Camp at Ohio State.  As part of their visit to the OSU Aero/Astro Research Laboratory (AARL) facility, the group was given a tour of the wind tunnels and lab spaces before participating in a hands-on design project.  Following a short lecture on wind turbines and airfoil design, the women spent the afternoon in small groups designing scale wind turbine blades from balsa wood.  Their objective was to achieve the fastest RPM when the custom blades were attached to a small wind turbine rig installed in the Battelle Subsonic Wind Tunnel Facility at AARL.  RPM was measured with a low-energy laser beam directed at the rotating blades, with a photodetector positioned on the other side of the rig and frequency pulses monitored using an oscilloscope.

Evaluation of Winglet Design on Stall Behavior

Aeron Roach, a senior at Dublin-Coffman High School in Columbus, had the opportunity to complete his thesis for the International Baccalaureate program by conducting an investigation of winglet design on stalling behavior at high angles of attack.  Working with graduate student Kevin Disotell, Aeron tested multiple bio-inspired winglet designs in the Battelle Subsonic Wind Tunnel Facility at the OSU Aero/Astro Research Laboratory over a range of Reynolds numbers and angles of incidence.  Aeron used tuft visualization on a scale-model Cessna 172 wing to qualitatively assess the extent of flow separation for each of his custom winglet designs at each flight condition.