Wind tunnel Barbie a whole new drag act

Monday, 22 May 2000

Riding your bike in a wind tunnel can be a real drag at times: just ask international toy icon Barbie.

Wind Tunnel Barbie is the brainchild of Adelaide University researchers looking to improve the aerodynamics of a life-sized bicycle to be entered in the 2001 World Solar Cycle Challenge from Alice Springs to Adelaide.

Staff from the University's Mechanical Engineering, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and Civil & Environmental Engineering Departments have joined forces with two of Adelaide's brightest Year 12 students to prepare an entry for the challenge.

Project coordinator Mr Stanley Woithe said tests on Wind Tunnel Barbie formed a vital part of preparing an entry in the A-class section of the challenge. A-class bikes are only allowed a small section of aerodynamic shaping (known as fairing) at the front of the bike.

"Many previous fairing designs suffer unexpectedly high drag in side-winds," Mr Woithe said. "The students will be designing a fairing that provides low drag under a broad range of wind angles. It is expected that the fairing will be a significant departure from earlier designs."

Barbie and her bike represent a one-fifth scale model of the real thing, and were chosen for the task for a number of reasons, Mr Woithe said.

"Barbie and the bicycle are the ideal size for the wind tunnel, and all the components - bicycle, doll helmet and so on - were ready-made," he said. "Barbie also has free-moving joints that allow her to be mounted in the correct position."

The two students - Paul Quast from Thomas More College and Andrew Smart from Urrbrae Agricultural High School - are working with Adelaide University staff through the CSIRO Student Research Scheme 2000.

The goals of the scheme are to provide students with quality research experience; increase the number of quality students taking up science and engineering careers; and to alert students, parents and teachers to the vital contribution of scientific and engineering research to the Australian community.

 

Contact Details

Associate Professor Richard Kelso
Email: richard.kelso@adelaide.edu.au
School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Adelaide
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Mr David Ellis
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