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Students generate electrifying research

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May 17, 2013

Thousands of drinking straws suck in air while hundreds of electrical wires spark energy into a student-built wind tunnel.Student physicists Ian Agnew, Austin Card, Taylor Ray and Jonathon Gardner conduct undergraduate research in the basement of Herty Hall.Student physicists Ian Agnew, Austin Card, Taylor Ray and Jonathon Gardner conduct undergraduate research in the basement of Herty Hall.

A team of young Georgia College physicists embark on a never-done-before challenge in a Herty Hall basement lab: Develop a bladeless wind turbine design that creates a more reliable, clean-energy source of electricity.

“Our physics professor, Dr. Hauke Busch, presented this hands-on challenge to us, and we took it.” said Ian Agnew, a junior physics major and team lead. “We’ve built everything from scratch by reading instructions, applying classroom knowledge and experimenting with pieces of our test model to make sure we’re constructing it correctly.”

The students built a 1-by-1 wind tunnel test section. The tunnel evaluates and tests various wind turbine designs under different wind speeds, and for power production and efficiency.

The testing will help determine the best design to create a more efficient wind turbine.

“These students like to break and blow things up, so what better project than this?” said Busch, assistant professor and physics lab and dual physics/engineering degree coordinator in the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy. “During the past two decades, wind turbines have become increasingly more powerful and versatile in their applications to generate electricity; however, improvements can be made. That’s what these students are working toward.”

Designing a bladeless wind turbine offers cost savings, reduces noise levels, simplifies the manufacturing process and is more eco-friendly, said Busch.

The now two-year project also is an opportunity for students to engage in undergraduate research and student mentoring on campus.

The student scientists have studied from and coached each other throughout the experiential-learning process.

“I spend most of my time following my classmates’ work,” said Austin Card, freshman physics major. “I hope to continue what they have started once they graduate, because it’s a really interesting engineering project.”

The group spends five hours a week crunching numbers, machining parts and testing the results of their self-made project.

“We’re applying everything from physics, math and experimentation skills to get the job done,” said junior Taylor Ray.

This year, the students presented their ongoing work at Georgia College’s 16th annual Student Research Conference and the Georgia Academy of Science’s annual meeting.

The aspiring physicists aim to make the undergraduate research project a permanent societal solution that reduces carbon dioxide emission and provides a renewable energy source in major cities across the globe.

“This project really gives us different ways to problem-solve the creation of natural energy,” said sophomore Jonathon Gardner. “We hope to develop cheaper turbines that makes better use of wind energy worldwide.”

Contact Dr. Hauke Busch at for more information about this project.


ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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