On today’s episode, host Dan Zehner visits Steve Schein, chief instrumentation engineer at the University of Florida’s Powell Family Structures and Material Laboratory.
From an early age, Steve Schein has been involved in science, coming from a family of engineers and scientists. He earned his degree in electrical and electronic engineering at UF and now enjoys building wind-generating machines for research projects at the Powell Lab.
A self-described instrumentation and measurement nut, Schein discusses a new wind machine project underway. It is a wall of fans: 319 prop-driven fans, each about 8 inches in diameter, and each driven by a 1 horsepower RC motor. Each fan will be able to individually generate any kind of wind field, such as gusts and turbulence, up to 40 miles per hour.
Briefly, Schein discusses another project underway at the UF, a scale model of Puerto Rico. The research team is it using to measure the effects of terrain on wind speed — in hopes of understanding damage caused by Hurricane Maria last year.
Schein describes another wind machine, the Multi-Axis Wind Load Simulator, called MAWLS, which is two stories tall and can generate 200 MPH winds. In one test, using relatively low wind speeds (not even Category five winds), MAWLS winds easily collapsed the type of unreinforced concrete walls typical in Puerto Rican construction.
Schein discusses building this wall of fans. His team started by building sample systems to see if they could build an apparatus that could make representative winds, such as down drafts, rotational vortices, and high frequency wind-peaks. After determining they could make it work, the team began building the machine from scratch. They 3-D printed most of the parts, including electronics mounting structures and air foils.
The Powell Lab team is the only one to build such a machine, Schein says. When operating at full capacity, it will consume about a half million watts.
He discusses some of the problems building the wall and details how it works. Schein says it be running in October and ready for research-testing by fall 2019.