Kathleen Cavanagh, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

This summer, I worked in Professor Smits’ lab in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department studying Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT), which offer a promising alternative to the more commonly seen Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT). Unfortunately VAWTs currently have a lower coefficient of power than HAWTs, meaning that VAWTs are less efficient at collecting the energy in the wind and turning it into electricity. This efficiency may be increased by reducing the dynamic stall on the VAWT’s blades. My research involved designing and building an apparatus to mimic the path of a blade in a VAWT. The blade within this apparatus is interchangeable, allowing for various blade geometries’ dynamic stall reductions to be tested. From these tests, a new blade geometry could be suggested to reduce the dynamic stall on VAWTs and improve their performance in order to make them a more viable source of renewable energy. This experience allowed me to see the practical applications of the theory I had learned within my classes. I learned about computer modeling and was exposed to the manufacturing process, which allowed me to take an idea from the conceptual to the physical realm.