Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mechanical Engineering

Research Sponsor

Nicholas Garafolo

First Reader

Ajay Mahajan

Second Reader

Scott Sawyer


The simulation wind tunnel was created to be integrated into a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation titled Zipping Towards STEM: Integrating Engineering Design into the Middle School Physical Science Curriculum. The goal of this project is to integrate the engineering design process of computer modeling, simulation, rapid prototyping, and testing into the 8th grade level curriculum by letting students design and test their own mini soap box derby cars. The simulation wind tunnel will be used to help the students understand the basics of aerodynamics so they can design an aerodynamic mini soap box derby car.

The simulation wind tunnel code and graphics user interface (GUI) were created using MATLAB. This software was selected because the team had the most experience with Matlab and it has the capability of creating a standalone executable. This executable could then be downloaded onto the middle school computers for free without having to purchase MATLAB licenses.The simulation wind tunnel has 2D and 3D capabilities. The 2D functionality will be used to teach the students about aerodynamics by showing airflow around predetermined 2D figures. The 3D functionality will then be used for students to import their own 3D modeled soap box cars into the software to test their design so they can make improvements and then re-test their new and improved design. The software has many visual outputs that help students identify which objects are more aerodynamic than others. These visual outputs include streamlines, velocity field plot, pressure map, and most importantly drag.

This software was able to have a balance of speed and accuracy so it can run in a short amount of time to keep the attention of the studentsbut also be accurate enough to be a reliable simulation tool that can be used in the design process. The Zipping Towards STEM curriculum will be tested during the 2016-2017 school year with a select number of Akron Public middle schools. The following year, the program will be spread to all Akron Public schools to help integrate engineering design education. If the program is a success it has the possibility to spread throughout the state and hopefully throughout the nation.