'Neat' Wind Tunnel Fans High School Enthusiasm

November 10, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

WINFIELD — When Robert Foor-Hogue tells his science research students that the "only limitation is your imagination," they heed that philosophy.

Why else would a serious student like Tim White have spent several hundred hours over the past two years researching and designing a wind tunnel -- a tunnel the senior might never see come to fruition?

But with a mentor like Foor-Hogue and other successful student projects from which to take inspiration, limitation is not part of the classroom lesson in the South Carroll High science lab.

"What we're all about is kids," Foor-Hogue told people gathered at the school Wednesday to learn more about the wind tunnel. "We want to motivate them so they want to be involved in science."

Involved they are. Their successes include management of an 800-gallon aquatic environment,complete with 8- to 12-inch Japanese koi, aquatic plants and an acid-retrieval system.

They've participated in the state's Save Our Streams program, monitoring a stream behind the school. They've designed and built balsa wood columns and bridges, used to test structural strength.

But the project of the moment is the wind tunnel -- a 12-foot-long, 3-foot-wide tunnel that, when completed, will be able to deliver speeds of approximately 300 miles per hour.

Run by a 5-horsepower electric motor, the tunnel -- expected to cost about $5,000 tobuild -- will be used for future projects in science research and drafting classes. The school's academic and vo-tech students are working together on its construction.

As in other research projects, financing is needed. Students received a boost last week when representatives from Westinghouse and Worthington Pump presented the school with checks for $3,700.

Martin T. Valentin, general manager of the Worthington Pump Division Dresser Inc. in Taneytown, called the wind tunnel project "outstanding."

"It's provided them with a great learning experience," he said. "And it will be useful for the science research class for that purpose, too."

The class hopes to use the windtunnel to test the structural soundness and flow patterns of air around bridges and buildings under high winds, test the applicability ofspoilers and side mirrors on cars, and measure the lift and drag of airplane wings.

Foor-Hogue said the wind tunnel will be fairly mobile. He plans to transport the contraption around the state for demonstrations.

Tim, son of Jay and Janice White of Sykesville, predicts the project will be smooth sailing now that the design work is completed. He said construction would begin within a couple of months.

But its completion was hard to predict, the 18-year-old senior said.

Students called on officials at NASA, car manufacturers and Air Force bases -- "almost anybody that has a wind tunnel" -- to learn about the overall design and construction elements of a wind tunnel, he said.

After receiving several blue prints from companies, the students combined the best features of all of them in designing the tunnel. They used computer-assisted design software in drawing their wind tunnel.

Helping science research students in their design was Stephen Dowell, a senior drafting student from Westminster.

"I'll probably be there when they build the tunnel, to be following the design," said Stephen, son of Larry and Billie Dowell. "It's kind of the architect's job."

The project began with a previous science research class and has involved several students.

Foor-Hogue said one of the aspects of his classes is having students pass knowledge on to one another.

Students chose a wind tunnel for a project because it sounded "neat," said Tim, who plans to attend college next year to become an aerospace engineer. The idea was particularly alluring to him.

"If I design something like this in high school, I figure I'll havea peg up on whatever goes in college," he said.

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