Team Ornithopter



The airfoil testing apparatus is focused on creating a device to study the flow fields generated by flocking birds and schooling fish. The fin and wing interaction specifically shedding vortices are simulated using the airfoil testing apparatus. This apparatus is an array of wings attached to a shaft and bearing to achieve propulsion by flapping up and down. Our central shaft is attached to a motor assembly and control panel allowing the user to study the fluid dynamics that arise inside the tank. Dr. Hassan Masoud has specifically requested such a device for his research purposes, but any researchers interested in this natural phenomenon may utilize the airfoil apparatus.

flock_birds_Team25Team 25 bird imageTeam25Fish

Phase I- Design Inputs

 Phase 1 is designed to establish these into design inputs. Design inputs include user needs, system requirements, identification of hazards, and literature search.The airfoil testing was assembled according to the following design requirements. Much of our literature search used Dr. Masoud’s previous research into the field.

  • Tank must be constructed using transparent materials.
  • The tank must utilize a nested geometry (square outer tank with a cylindrical inner tank).
  • The frequency and amplitude of the wing oscillations must be adjustable.
  • The apparatus assembly time must be less than ten minutes.
  • The wings must rotate freely (no imposed rotation).
  • A sensor must be used to record the rotational velocity of the wings.

Phase II- Design Outputs

In order to fulfill the requirements specified in Phase one, our design outputs were as follows. The Airfoil testing apparatus is designed to be modular, and break down into four separate components for easy assembly. The square outer tank is made of glass, while the cylindrical insert is made of acrylic. The oscillation of the wings is achieved by a 12 volt DC gear motor. Our controller adjusts the speed of the motor and the frequency of the oscillation. Finally the amplitude of the oscillations are controlled by a slider on the motor’s armature also known as a scotch yoke.




Phase III- Verification and Validation

The purpose of phase three was to verify and validate the various design requirements. Throughout the testing process we were able to demonstrate that the airfoil testing apparatus met most of our design requirements. Our only requirement not satisfied was the sensor that records the wing velocity would not properly work. The central shaft no longer rotates along with the wings. The device is module and very easy to assemble, as well as assembled using the materials specified.



Phase IV- Introduction into Manufacturing

Many of the parts used in the airfoil testing apparatus assembly were ordered from a supplier The wings and plastic connections were 3D printed. To create the cylindrical insert a rectangular acrylic sheet was ordered. The rectangular sheet was then rolled into a cylinder and secured at the seam by a bonding strip and acrylic glue. The purpose of this section is to showcase the various manufacturing processes we utilized.

Team25_Manufactureprocess Team25_sealededge


Final prototype

Our final prototype was successful in creating the motion we wanted in a near friction-less environment. However our motor selection and issues with the sensor were setbacks, but did not hinder the project. We are happy with our prototype and feel like it is a great research tool that can really be applicable in future lab settings.

Team_25_final prototype

Meet the Team


Nick Zerbel- Project Lead- After graduating, I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in robotics and control systems. I may pursue a Ph.D in robotics, but I am undecided at this point. In the future I would like to design robots and autonomous drones that will be utilized in space.

Kyle Christensen- Communication- After graduating my plan is to get an entry level engineering position and work in an industry and field of engineering work I enjoy. At this point I would like to work in either the high tech industry or aerospace sectors.I  would like to focus on renewable energy resources.

Lan Li- Analysis specialist- My plan after graduation is to work for a company which locates both in China and U.S. and work in China and also be a specialist in all aspects of the mechanical engineering field specifically in Micro chip Controller and aerodynamics

Logan Falk- Quality- My plan after graduating is to work in engineering communications, primarily in grant and proposal writing.