Undergrad Labs, Projects Gain from Space Realignment


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Reconfiguration of existing space within Talbot Laboratory and new equipment purchases will gain for Aerospace Engineering at Illinois undergraduates more opportunities for hands-on experience and better space for student projects.

Meanwhile, the rearrangement frees office space that the growing AE faculty need. The Department added four faculty members last year, and will gain another four this coming year.

Three rooms in Talbot’s basement have been designated for undergraduate laboratories, and will feature three wind tunnels and a jet engine, said Dr. Brian Woodard, AE undergraduate program director and laboratory manager.

Two of the wind tunnels, capable of reaching subsonic speeds around Mach 0.1, were previously in AE’s possession and were relocated to the new space.  With AE Professors Greg Elliott and Craig Dutton, Woodard is also refurbishing a supersonic wind tunnel that will be used in the undergraduate laboratory curriculum and will be in place for the Fall 2015 semester.  The supersonic wind tunnel allows students to gain experience with compressible flow phenomena with Mach numbers approaching Mach 3.

Elliott and Woodard also worked together to fund the purchase of an instrumented turbojet engine that the labs will use in the Fall. Woodard said seniors taking AE 460, Experimental Aerodynamics, will gain a better understanding of thermodynamics and propulsion by using the new jet engine in lab exercises.

“These improvements will upgrade our laboratory education in the area of propulsion to the same high standards that we have had for many years in aerodynamics,” Elliott said.

The equipment additions “give the students a greater range of experiments,” Woodard maintains.

Two of the three rooms had previously been used for undergraduate lab space. The third was gained and converted from lab space vacated by former AE Prof. Joanna Austin.

A fourth room now designated for student projects has been created from space opened when AE Associate Prof. Tim Bretl agreed to consolidate his laboratory needs in the Coordinated Science Laboratory building. AE has encouraged the growth in student group numbers and activities, and the space supports this emphasis.

“Now where the students keep their projects is right next to the labs where they work on them,” Woodard said.

He added that, when the groups worked in other places, they had to furnish their own tools. “The Department owns a bunch of tools and students can have easy access to those now. (The groups) can spend the money they raise on their actual projects now and the Department can support the infrastructure.

“Because the groups want to do all these very ambitious projects, we wanted to support them as best we could.”

Previously, the student groups worked from an overcrowded, compact office on Talbot Lab’s third floor. That area will be used for faculty office space.

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