Thursday, March 28, 2013

Drag body rig is anything but.

March 26 Emflume drag body velocimeter development. from Steve Gough on Vimeo.

A few times each year I have an exciting, emotional day in the lab.

When I realize I've done something that will make the world a better place. 

Watch the movie.  I loved building this drag body velocimeter and playing with it.  I can't imagine a better way for students to get a hands-on, physical, visual understanding of how moving water works.

After more work, we'll ship this worldwide, and thousands of students will use this simple, inexpensive, elegant device to love and enjoy learning like I did this week.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

AWRA Spring Specialty Conference 2013

A group of visitors surround the Em2 during the networking reception Monday night.
 Nathan and I hauled an Emriver into downtown St. Louis Sunday -- in the middle of a record-setting spring snow storm that brought more than 12 inches to the area -- to exhibit at the American Water Resources Association 2013 Spring Specialty Conference.

Two of the nine scheduled exhibitors didn't make it due to canceled flights.  An already low turnout -- budget cuts forced US federal agency representatives to cancel weeks before the conference -- was even lower.

But we've had a great meeting.  We've met students and professors, state agency representatives, and professionals young and old.  We even met a young scientist -- a professor's ten-year-old daughter -- who spent some time with us last night armoring stream banks in our model.

A meeting organizer told me at the cocktail reception last night that we're the talk of the conference.

"What's cool is, even the old white guys are talking about you," he added.

This conference's theme is agricultural hydrology and water quality, so we've talked a lot about management practices related to farming, especially pollution.  By lunchtime, the water in our Em2 runs a deep emerald green from all the dye we've been using to simulate contaminants.

We've made new connections and visited with old friends.  We're especially glad to see our friends from SIU, who helped organize and sponsor the meeting.

Nathan talks about simulating flood hyrdrographs with a conference attendee.

More Emflume drag body testing.

Drag body testing in the Emflume. from Steve Gough on Vimeo.

(UPDATE:  Blogger is mangling images; sometimes days after they're posted.  We have no idea why.  Working on it, sorry.)

We need a robust, inexpensive way for students to measure water velocity in our Emflume.   Nothing on the market meets that need, so we have to do it.

A drag body sits in a stream of fluid, with a rod attached so force on it can be measured.  The Wright Brothers were pioneers here, and what I tested today is much like what they built.

Crude?  Still used in lots of research, and on the Apollo flights to measure rocket velocity.  NASA researchers learned, in the 1960's, that dimpled balls -- like golf balls -- were much more stable in streams of air, and gave better readings.

Watching these instruments bounce around today I was reminded that fluid mechanics is a tough topic.  That's why we need to build this flume in 2013, nearly 50 years after those NASA scientists learned that whiffle balls made good sensors.

Thanks to SIU colleagues Bill Hinz and Jim Garvey for the loan of a reference velocimeter.

Reference:  Reed, Wilmer, and James Lynch.  1962.  A simple fast response anemometer.  (NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA).  Journal of Applied Meteorology.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Incrementally implementing the semi-impossible.

We're closing in on final design for our Emflume -- a "desktop flume" for undergrad students in engineering, fisheries, and geology -- giving them hands-on understanding of fluid mechanics. 

Our flume will demonstrate things like fish passage through culverts -- real-world hydraulics problems.  Nothing like it exists, but needs to, so we're doing it.

Making this portable, affordable, practical flume is not easy -- that's why nobody's done it yet.

Instrumentation is another challenge.  A laser Doppler velocimeter, at around $40K, could give us water velocity, but we need something cheaper.

I'm working with colleagues -- thanks Chris Krumm, who needs no linkage -- to measure velocity in new ways.  Like measuring heat loss from a heated probe.

Ever been cold in a freezing wind?  Wind chill.  Works that way.

Here's a short movie showing work we did today -- using another method, a "drag body," to measure velocity.  And video analysis of particle movement and turbulence in the flume.

Crude stuff; here it is.

During my research on fluid velocity measurement, specifically thermal anemometers, I found an amazing website, by Johan Liljencrants, who worked on sound and speech and electronics at the Royal Academy of Sweden.  

He used thermal anemometry to measure air flow in pipe organs.

Johan died last year.  I wish I had known him, and heard much more of his research on sound and pipe organs, but honor him here, and by using sound from one of his pipe organs in my movie.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Matt Kuchta rocks our coded media.

I won't say much here, because your time's better spent on a visit to Matt Kuchta's blog, Research at a Snail's Pace.  There, among many interesting things from this amazing teacher of science,  you'll see lots of new and interesting analysis of our coded media.

Matt, at the University of Wisconsin - Stout, has also started a Google+ group where his posts on our models are nicely summarized.

Kuchta has one of our Em2 models, and recently got 150 pounds of our color-coded media to go with it.  He's jumped into the stuff with a scientific enthusiasm that makes every bit of the four years I spent developing it worth the work!

The figure here is a  "Tuftonian" masterpiece of science illustration.  It shows size frequency for the four colors in our media, mean sizes in two ways, and the overlap between them.  Matt and his students did this work in his undergraduate soils lab sessions.

Thanks from all of us at LRRD, Matt -- these models are a labor of love for us.  Seeing them pushed to their limits makes us very happy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Merci Beaucoup, Chris Alix.

My wife Kate’s known Chris Alix since high school.  He went from Carbondale High to the elite EE program at the University of Illinois. 

He’s still in Champaign-Urbana, and hangs with an old professor; the guy who invented the LED.

As a brilliant independent digital hardware/software design consultant, Chris is  always fully booked.  By the likes of Motorola – and too cool and in demand to need a website, so no link. 

Chris serves on the Champaign, Illinois County Board, a Progressive doing good things there.

And still finds time to help us at LRRD, designing flow controllers. This weekend he was here to help us with a new basic pump controller for our Em2.

Thanks, Chris Alix, for the Alix Controller, and for the work you’re doing for LRRD now.

Monday, March 11, 2013

LE Sauer Machine visits, and a model goes to Austria

Steve and Warren discuss a prototype
Warren Sauer of LE Sauer Machine, a long-time Little River collaborator, came by our shop Friday with two of his fabricators, Pak Chittakhone, who builds the supports for our Em2 and Em3 models, and Tim Skornia, who welds our boxes.  John Medwedeff, Warren’s friend and a sculpture artist based in Muphysboro, Ill., also joined us.

We started working with Warren in 2005 when he built our eighth Em2 box.  And aside from his company’s important work as our supplier all these years, they’ve helped us design at least one component of every model we sell.

We’ve always been impressed by Warren and his staff and the work they do.  Aside from the job shop at LE Sauer Machine, he oversees art projects at St. Louis Fabrication Arts, and helps his wife manufacture garden art at Trellis Art Designs.

Sauer Machine was founded in 1926 by Warren’s grandfather.  Now Warren’s son has been working with the company, making him the fourth generation Sauer at the business.

We were all happy to meet Warren and his staff.  Warren has been a wonderful business partner, and we’re lucky to have found him.

We also shipped a model Friday bound for our first international conference -- the European Geosciences Union 2013 General Assembly in Vienna.  After the conference, the model will go to the University of Szeged in Hungary.

Steve shows Pak, John, Warren and Tim the Em2 in action

The team celebrates an Em2 bound for a conference in Austria, then a university in Hungary