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Students Get Rare Learning Opportunity through Wind-Tunnel Project

Justin (left), Professor Milanovic, and Mark discuss next steps.

Activity is rampant on the lower level of Dana Hall—more specifically in the turbomachinery lab—where a group of six students in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture are putting the finishing touches on the University of Hartford’s third wind-tunnel. When it is complete, students, and potentially area businesses, will use it to study and measure important aspects of aerodynamics.

Mark Markiewicz ’18 of Windsor, Conn., who serves as project manager, and Justin Starr ’17 of Lebanon, Conn., were the first two students selected to work on the project from among 20 applicants over the summer.

“Mark and Justin (as a sophomore and junior, respectively) are doing work that would usually be expected of graduate students,” says Ivana Milanovic, professor of mechanical engineering. “Not many students at any level have access to this type of equipment.”

It was Milanovic’s enthusiasm that stuck with Mark when he visited campus as a high school senior. “She was awesome, extremely helpful, talking about the wind-tunnel lab, even beating the drum for me to join different activities,” Mark recalls. “I remembered all this and looked to get involved from the minute I set foot onto campus as a freshman.”

Knowing he was more of a hands-on learner, Justin credits the presence of the wind-tunnel lab as one of the deciding factors in his college search. Since arriving at UHart, he also has discovered the importance of being able to work closely with faculty.

“Meeting with professors individually is the best thing you can do as a student,” Justin emphasizes. “They go out of their way to make themselves available. The professors here are willing and wanting to help you and to see you succeed.”

It's all in a day's work for Justin (left), Professor Milanovic, and Mark.

Mark, Justin, and their project teammates will find a second home in the lab during this final week of construction—it will take about 30 hours with all six present—to complete the assembly, hook it up to power, and begin verification and testing to determine if any alterations need to be made.

“It could be one step forward, two steps back,” Mark admits, knowing full well that a project of this scope is bound to need some refinements before being done to industry standards. But the rewards will be well worth it.

“The beauty of this wind tunnel is that it is not limited,” Mark explains. “The University’s prior ones could only go so fast and test smaller objects. Each one has gotten bigger and better and this third wind tunnel can handle the gamut.”

The original equipment to construct the wind tunnel was donated to the University by United Technologies Research Center, and once the students have completed their work getting it back into shape, local companies will have a valuable resource for testing equipment. Meanwhile, these students will have hands-on experience that is hard to match.

“This project benefits students, the University, and local industry,” Milanovic proudly says.