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  • Writer's pictureGEARE Executive Board

Global Design Team Project: UNAQ Water Tunnel

The main goal of the GEARE program is to foster engineering innovation and collaboration on a global scale. One way this goal is achieved is through participation in global design teams. This semester I am working as a part of the water tunnel design project, partnering with the Aeronautical University in Querétaro (UNAQ) from Mexico and the engineering school, ESTACA, from France. The goal of this project is to go through the process of creating a water tunnel, from the theoretical design to a concrete strategy for implementation and construction in UNAQ facilities.

A water tunnel is an experimental facility used for testing the hydrodynamic behavior of submerged bodies in flowing water. There are four main components of the water tunnel: The pump (8), the flow conditioning section (22), the contraction section (25), and the test section (0). The pump is used to recirculate the water through the tunnel. The flow conditioning section is usually a honeycomb matrix that is used to make the flow as laminar (less turbulent) as possible. The contraction section is a nozzle that increases the velocity of the water. Finally, the test section is a small area of the water tunnel in which hydrodynamic experiments can be conducted. This general outline of a water tunnel optimizes flow speed and uniformity, which allows for hydrodynamic testing of objects in a controlled environment, similar to the way a wind tunnel works for testing the wings of an airplane.

This is the second semester of work on this project, with a cohort of Purdue and UNAQ students having worked on the initial stages of development the previous spring. The previous students were able to establish a solid foundation of design using various mathematical models and solidworks simulations to determine an optimal design. Therefore, the goal for the team this semester is to take the theoretical design of the water tunnel and create a plan for its physical implementation. We will work with the models developed by the previous students to create CAD (Computer Aided Design) prototypes of each component of the water tunnel, and using the design specifications provided by UNAQ, create a bill of materials for construction.

This project team is a great opportunity to use the theory that I am learning about in my classes and apply them to a concrete engineering problem. Also, it is a very rewarding experience to work on a team in a global capacity because they provide unique viewpoints and solutions. However, one challenging aspect of any global collaboration is the difference in time zones. For example, while the UNAQ students are only an hour behind local time in Purdue, the ESTACA students are six hours ahead. This has led to some scheduling conflicts as we try to add time to work on the project into everyone’s hectic schedule. However, this minor challenge seems inconsequential compared to the reward of being able to work and learn with students from other cultures on a global project. Work on a global design team accomplishes the two main goals of the GEARE program: getting real-world engineering experience and collaborating on an international scale.

As a part of the design team this semester, I hope to further my engineering knowledge, as well as improve my team working skills. Participation in a meaningful engineering project as an undergraduate student will help me in my later classes as well as after graduation when I pursue a career in engineering. This opportunity is unique to the GEARE program and is an extremely worthwhile experience to be a part of a team on an engineering project in which my input will have a direct impact on its manufacturing. Again, the water tunnel that will be designed by the teams last semester and this semester will be constructed in UNAQ facilities. The goal for the team this semester is to take the theoretical ideas that were developed by the team from last semester and develop them into an implementable solution. I hope to be able to provide more information on the progress of the project as we work on it this semester.

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