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Scott Bollt, a 16-year-old sophomore at Potsdam High School in New York, will travel to Los Angeles to give a presentation on an inflatable airplane made from Mylar balloons that he designed and tested in a wind tunnel in his basement.
Bollt won Highest Honors at the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri-Region Science and Engineering Fair in Onondaga County, which drew students from all over New York, in March. He also won the Innovative Engineering Award and the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri-Region Science and Engineering Fair 2014 Ying Scholar Award.
Bollt’s inflatable airplane is designed for conditions with low Reynolds numbers, which describe the properties of a liquid or gas when something moves through it. The wing was optimized in the wind tunnel and then used on the inflatable airplane.
The idea for the wind tunnel was based on a desktop-sized tunnel that Bollt built last year. The wind tunnel used to test the inflatable airplane used an open return section design with two repurposed fans that sucked air through the tunnel. A diffuser section slowed down the air and created a barrier between the test section and the fans.
The contraction section was constructed with cardboard to increase the tunnel’s efficiency and reduce turbulence. The contraction section had streamers made of straws and mesh to streamline the air. The test section had smooth acrylic walls and the highest airspeed. The tunnel was airtight to maximize efficiency.
Bollt’s project is called “Inflatable Airplane Design and Optimization for Low Reynolds Numbers.” He will present his findings at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair from May 11 to 16.