Transcript for NASAConnect - Tools of the Aeronautic Trade


[Goodson] Hi, my name is
John Goodson and I work

with industrial light and Magic.

I'm a concept modeler for Star
wars, the phantom menace..

I build things like this.

The way we make things like
this so real, a lot of it is

about proportions and
the scale of things.

And we have to pay
attention to make sure

that things are symmetrical,
things are round,

things are the correct
shape and stuff.

And a lot of that is
based on math calculations

and just paying attention to
math details involved in it.

Queen Amydala of

[unclear] looks a lot like the

[unclear], because it
was inspired by the


A really sleek airplane with
a lot of beautiful lines

and looks like it can
go really really fast.

So Queen Amydala's ship
has to be equally fast.

The speed of light.

I hope you enjoy this
episode of NASA Connect.

I hope seeing this
will help inspire you

to do mathematics and science.

And may the force of your
imagination be with you.

Hi, I'm Dan Hughes, and
welcome to NASA Connect,

a show that connects you with the
world of math, science, and NASA.

Right now, my band the
Noodles is trying to get

on the road for our next gig.

But as you can see, we're
having a bit of car trouble.

[Voice] Man, these tools
don't fit these bolts.

There's no way we can
finish this today.

[Voice] We'll have to
cancel another performance.

I'll see you tomorrow.

[Voice] Hey, Dan, this
old van has had it.

See you later.

[Dan] Guys, guys!

Hey, Jennifer.

Thanks for coming over.

[Jennifer] No problem.

What's up with your van?

[Dan] Whenever we packed the van
and we get onto the open road,

the vibration is terrible.

And the van keeps stalling.

I replaced and tightened some loose
bolts, but it just doesn't work.

I keep struggling.

The gas mileage is lousy.

It barely makes it up hills.

We're always the slowest
thing on the highway.

It overheats.

It's a slug.


[Laughter] Well, you know what,

it seems like you've
got some problems here.

Some definite problems.

And I think I've got
your first one down.

Right here, this is
a metric wrench.

And you are using that
with US standard bolts.

They're not going to fit.

It's not going to work.

Your second problem
seems a little tougher.

This van, it just doesn't
look too aerodynamic.

[Dan] Well, I can get some
proper wrenches from my dad.

But, OK, how do I check
my aerodynamic problem?

[Jennifer] Well, I
have some friends

over at NASA Langley Research
Center over in Hampton, Virginia.

They know all about the
science of aerodynamics.

And the measurement tools
used in their research.

[Dan] Well, great.

Maybe they can help me find out
exactly what's wrong with the van.

[Jennifer] I'll bet they can.

Hey you. Before we head over to
NASA Langley, let's learn more

about measurement, and why it's
important to measure accurately.

[Dan] That's right.

We'll check out a museum that will
give us some background history

on measurement.

[Jennifer] And speaking
of measurement,

we have this really
cool checklist for you

to follow throughout our show.

Every time our stage manager
appears with a cue card,

that's your cue to think about
answers to questions he gives you.

Got it? Later, we'll go to NASA
Langley in Hampton, Virginia

and NASA Dryden in California's
Mojave Desert, to meet some people

who use measurement tools as
part of their job designing

and testing airplanes.

[Dan] And, so you can get even
more involved in measurement,

you'll meet some students from
Prince William County, Virginia,

who will show you how
to use measurement

to build your own wind tunnel.

[Jennifer] You'll
also meet students

from Ann Beard Elementary School
in Washington, DC, who are using

[unclear], it went
tunnel simulation,

with NASA's educational
technology program manager,

Dr. Shelley Cainwright.

Students will show you how they are
using the Internet to learn more

about the science of aerodynamics,
and how you can use our web site

to conduct your own simulated
wind tunnel investigation.

[Dan] So Jennifer, are you ready?

[Jennifer] Dan, I was born ready.

But be glad we're taking my car.


[Voice] How did the US standard
system of measurement develop?

[Voice] How was the
metric system devised?

[Voice] How are the
two systems different?

[Jennifer] Let's begin
our measurement journey

by visiting the Peninsula
Fine Arts Center

in Newport News, Virginia.

[Dan] People have been measuring
things for thousands of years.

Hey, that's one thing
we measure, time.

What are some of the
other things we measure?

[Voices] Temperature.

How hot is it?

Volume. How much space
is in your garage?

Mass and wait.

How heavy is it?

Length. How long is your street?

[Dan] Get this: the ancient
Egyptians used their fingers,

hands, and even arms
to measure things.

There were no measuring
tools like rulers back then.

The width of one finger
was a digit, and the width

of four fingers was a palm.

[Jennifer] Here's another
ancient Egyptian measurement.

Open your hand and spread
your fingers just like that.

The distance from the tip
of your thumb to the end

of your little pinky
was called a span.

[Dan] The ancient Egyptians also
created a measurement called cubit.

If you bend your arm, the
distance from your elbow to the tip

of your middle finger was a cubit.

In the ancient world, the
cubit was the most popular way

to measure length.

[Jennifer] So you see, all these
units of measurement were based

on something familiar to
ancient people: body parts.

[Dan] Of course, using
your hand or elbow

to measure a pyramid
would take forever.

[Jennifer] Not only that, it's not
an accurate or exact measurement.

Here's why.

[Voice] My friend, Jimmy,
is taller than I am.

It takes four of my cubit
arm lengths, but only three

of his, to measure my bike.

How can we get the same measurement
is our arms are different lengths?

[Jennifer] Good point.

In ancient Egypt, it was up
to the Pharaoh to decide how

to make measurements standard,
or the same, for all situations.

[Dan] So the standard
cubit length was set

by the length of the Pharaoh's arm.

But even then, it could be
pretty tough measuring a pyramid

with a Pharaoh under your arm.

[Jennifer] As time went on,

people figured many
ways to measure things.

Unfortunately, none
of them were the same

when it came to mathematics.

You see, scientists couldn't
repeat each other's experiments

because there was not
an agreed-upon standard

of measurement.

Today, our world operates according

to two different systems
of measurement.

Here's some expert help.

[Voice] In the US standard
system, the inch, foot, yard,

and mile developed from
traditional practices

of measurement dating
back to ancient times.

One disadvantage of the US standard
system is the different size units

often have no simple
relationship to each other.

For instance, there are 12 inches
in a foot, 3 feet in a yard,

1760 yards or 5280 feet in a mile.

[Dan] Converting different
units of measurement like miles

to inches requires some math.

Here's an example.

It's about 431 miles from
Los Angeles to San Francisco.

To convert these miles into
inches, simply multiply the number

of miles, 431, by the number of
feet in a mile, 5280, by the number

of inches in a foot, 12.

431 miles converts
to 27,308,169 inches.


[Voice] Using the decimal
system is a much easier way

to measure and change units.

Because earlier systems of
measuring units were so confusing,

the decimal system was devised.

This system is based on
hands and multiples of 10.

10 numbers or decimals are easier
to use than the US standard system,

which is based on 12ths.

One advantage of the decimal
system is the decimal point.

Depending on where it is moved,

whole numbers can become
fractions or multiples of tens.

[Dan] Thanks, Dr. Morgan.

We now know why there is a
metric system of measuring.

[Jennifer] Yep.

And the metric system
is based on the meter.

The original meter was not the
length of someone's finger or arm.

Instead, it represented one
10 millionth of the distance

from the North Pole to the Equator.

Hey. The meter is the most
widely used measuring system

for scientific work.

Using the metric system,
we can easily convert units

with some mental math.

For example, we know Los
Angeles is approximately 600 km

from sentences go.

Now if we want to know that same
distance in meters, for example,

all we have to do is
multiply by a thousand.

Why? Because there's
1000 m in 1 km.

So you multiply 600 times 1000

and you get 600,000 m. 600
km is the same as 600,000 m.

[Dan] The Egyptians would have
appreciated the meter stick.

It's better than a Pharaoh's arm.

OK, I now know the difference
between the US standard system

and the metric system.

And why my wrench
didn't fit the bolts.

You seem to think that my van
has an aerodynamic problem.

How can I measure that?

[Jennifer] I'm glad you asked, Dan.

Hey guys, I have some friends

over at NASA Langley Research
Center in Hampton, Virginia.

We're going to meet some
engineers, and they use tools

and techniques every day
to measure aerodynamics.

Dan, I'm going to call ahead and
get us clear to the research lab.

That all right?

Hi, is Mike there?


[Voice] Explain

[unclear] aircraft performance
and how they relate to each other.

[Jennifer] Dan, I want
you to meet my friend.

This is Mike Hogan.

[Mike] Hi,


[Jennifer] He works here at NASA
Langley research Center in Hampton,

Virginia designing aircraft.

[Dan] Wow.

[Mike] So, Dan, Jennifer tells
me you're having a problem

with your vehicle.

[Dan] I sure am.

I belong to a band called the
Noodles, and we bought a van

to carry our equipment
to our performances.

But he keeps breaking down.

Jennifer says it might be
an aerodynamic problem?

Can you help?

[Mike] Sure.

We here at the NASA Langley
research Center have been studying

aerodynamics since 1917.

Every aircraft is designed with
a specific purpose in mind,

like carrying people or cargo.

No matter what the purpose is,
all aircraft designs must consider

for basic forces: lift,
weight, thrust, and drag.

Lift is the force
that moves an airplane

up when the air flows
across a wing.

Weight is the effect of gravity
pulling an airplane down.

The force that pushes the
plane forward is called thrust.

It's usually created by a
plane's engine or propellers.

The last force, drag,
slows an airplane

down as air rubs against
the plane surfaces.

It's a lot like the
friction created

when a tire skids across the road.

We measure these forces by creating
scale models of our designs

and then testing them
in wind tunnels.

At NASA Langley alone,
we test designs

in over 20 different wind tunnels.

So then, example what happens
when you take the vehicle out?

[Dan] Well, every time we load
the equipment on top of the van,

it doesn't have enough power.

And every time we load
the stuff inside the van,

it helps a little,
but it's still slow.

[Mike] It sounds like it may
be having a problem with drag.

Which is causing your
engine to overwork.

I think a wind tunnel
test might help us

to understand your problem better.

I'll call a friend of mine, Hector

[unclear], who designs measurement
tools using wind tunnels,

and a range for the
two of you to meet.

In the meantime, I'll
go back to my office,

and work on some possible
solutions to your problem.

[Jennifer] Great.

[Dan] Yeah.


[Voice] What is a wind tunnel?

[Voice] How is a wind tunnel
used as a measuring tool?

[Voice] How is the SR-71 an
ideal research test plane?

[Hector] Hi, Jennifer.

[Jennifer] Hi.

[Hector] Hi, Dan.

Mike told me you might be
having an aerodynamics problem

with your vehicle?

[Dan] We do.

[Hector] I want to welcome you
to my department, the advanced


Here we make tools to
measure the performance of

[unclear] in the wind tunnel.

[Dan] Now, the wind tunnel.

Is that just like a big fan?

[Hector] Well, let me
explain what a wind tunnel is.

And how we use it to measure
aerodynamic forces like drag.

A wind tunnel is a device
insisting of an enclosed passage

through which air
is driven by a fan.

The heart of the wind
tunnel is the test section.


[unclear] flows about the
model duplicating the air

[unclear] proposed test aircraft.

We use different techniques
to measure aerodynamic forces.

Things like

[unclear], smoke,
laser light shift.

Sometimes we use water instead of
air and streams of dye to watch

[unclear] and other
unusual phenomenon.

Several deformations, such as
wind flexing, can affect drag.

Here at NASA Langley,
one instruments

that we designed projects
the pattern laser light

onto the surface of the
model being studied.

Later we compare photographs
and measure the differences

in the pattern length.

The differences showed changes
in the shape of the wing surface

that might be disrupting
the airflow.

We call this turbulence.

Data are collected during the
testing and checked for accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, it is not
until an aircraft is like tested

in the real world that the design
efficiency can be fully verified.

NASA does most of its flight
testing at NASA Dryden

in California's Mojave Desert.

[Voice] As an aeronautical engineer

at NASA Dryden flight
research Center, I'm interested

in all the measurements
are made during tests

and flight research missions.

Blackbirds are the world's
fastest and highest flying jets.

They cruise along at speeds
over 2000 mph at heights

over 24 km, or about 80,000 feet.

That's so high that when I
look at the airplanes window,

this guy seems to be darker,
even during the daylight.

The SR-71's unique capabilities
make it an ideal platform

for aeronautical research
and experiments

that are beyond the
reach of any other check.

All these data plus reports
from the pilots are compared

with computer, wind tunnel, and
flight simulator information

so that engineers will understand
exactly what is happening

with the design.

[Hector] These are just a few

of the ways we measure
aerodynamic forces.

Hey. I have a friend of mine,

[unclear], that works at the
Old Dominion University for


Why don't I get a call and arrange
to have your vehicle tested?

Let me explain.

[Jennifer] Now, while
those guys go test the van,

let's meet some Prince
William County math students

who will use measurement
to build a wind tunnel.

In this activity, we'll
determine the effect dried has

in different shapes.

And later, I'll be back and
helping analyze the data.

[Voices] Welcome to making
math count enrichment Camp

at Saunders Middle School in
Prince William County, Virginia.

NASA Connect asked us
to show you how to make

and build your own
wind tunnel and use it

to test several shapes for drag.

Drag is one of the four forces
that aeronautic engineers consider

when they design airplanes.

The other resources are
lift, weight, and thrust.

Under the guidance of our
teachers, Mr. Bill Wright,

Miss Melinda Spencer,
and Miss Kendall Miller,

we'll go through the
steps that you'll use

in constructing your wind tunnel.

Before you begin, go to the web
site to learn about wind tunnels.

This will give you
a good understanding

about the measurement tool
you're about to build.

After you've gotten
your materials together,

you begin by measuring the fan.

Next right the dimensions
of the fan on the board.

Each student should
fill out the data sheet

by determining the dimensions of
eight trapezoid panels of the upper

and lower sections
of the wind tunnel,

and the four smaller rectangular
panels of the test chamber.

If the side of the fan is X,
then the height and bottom width

of the trapezoid shapes
would be the same size,

and the top would be one
third of X. or X. over three.

The dimensions of the test
chamber panel would be X. over two

for the height, and X over
three for the top and bottom.

After checking the accuracy
of the calculations,

the teacher will divide
the class into four teams.

Teams will measure
and mark their panels.

The teacher will then
cut the panels.

The test chamber will fit
between the upper and deflectors,

so it is very important
that the measurement

and cutting his accurate, so
that the parts will fit together

and be airtight.

Team one will cut a window in one
of the panels and tape a piece

of transparency film
over it from the inside.

Team two will cut a window in one
of its panels and tape a piece

of transparency film over
it from the inside also.

Now carefully tape
the sections together,

making sure that the
windows are on the same side.

When the wind,

[unclear], tape it to the box fan

so then the air blows
out at the bottom.

Press the wind tunnel and the
fan onto two chairs like this.

Make sure the chairs block as
little airflow as possible.

To make the

[unclear] test gauge, team four
cups in 10 cm x 10 cm square card.

Next, punch a 1 mm hole 3 cm
from the top center of the card.

Remove the elastic from inside the
party hat and measure a 15 cm long


Do not stretch elastic
when measuring.

Double it over to form a loop.

Thread the two loose ends
through the hole in the card and


Next, Mark the center of the card.

Beginning at the center point, draw
a solid line to the right edge.

Using 2 mm intervals,
draw five lines above

and below the center line
that you have just drawn.

[Unclear] equilateral triangle with
each side 2 centimeters in length.

Cut 2 small slits in
one side of the triangle

and place the elastic
through the slits

[unclear] the measurement point
of the triangle in the center


While teams one through four are
completing their assignments,

use the templates to build the
four polyhedrons, tetrahedron,

pyramid, cube, and cone.

Cut the shapes out, then
cut along the dotted lines.

Gently tape the edges
together to form the shapes.

Pull the strings to the
designated point in each shape.

When the shape is suspended in the
wind tunnel, it should be visible

in the center of the test chamber.

Now you are ready for testing.

Turn on them.

Note the position of the gate.

Start the fan on low speed.

Count how many lines
the gauge moves.

Now increase the fan
speed to medium.

Count how many lines engage
moves from its first position.

Do the same for high-speed.

The number of lines the gauge moved
indicates the drag force exerted

by the wind on the object.

Run tests on the other polyhedrons.

Record your results on
the student data sheet.

Now calculate the mean, median, and
note for each polyhedrons at each


Using the results, make a graph.

This will help compare the drag
force of each of the shapes.

When all the data is collected
and graphed, you are now able

to analyze the results.


[Jennifer] Data analysis one

of the most important
part of an experiment.

You know, this would be a great
time for you to stop the video,

use your thinker and
consider the following.

Which factor, shape,
mass, wind speed, or drag,

is considered the constant?

That means, which of those
factors stays the same throughout

the entire experiment?

And why is it important for
this factor to remain constant?

Look at your data.

What relationship can you see
between the shape of the object

and the drag that's created?

More questions like these and
their answers can be found

in the educator's guide.

Teachers, you can download this
from our NASA Connect web site.

Since we've been talking
about wind tunnels,

let's head over to old dominion
University full-scale wind tunnel,

and see what Dan's up to.

[Hector] Hey, Drew.

[Drew] Hello, Hector.

[Hector] Jennifer, Dan,
this is Drew Lenman.

[Jennifer] Hi.

[Dan] Nice to meet you.

[Hector] So true, what do
you have prepared for us?

[Drew] First, let me tell you a
little bit about our wind tunnel.

It's run by Old Dominion
University in Norfolk, Virginia.

And it's the second largest
wind tunnel in the US.

This full-scale tunnel
was originally designed

to test entire aircraft.

The fans at the end of the

[unclear] are 1100 cm high.

They can pull air
through the chamber

at 133 kph, or about 80 mph.

This creates enough
wind for a small plane

to achieve pre-flight
testing within this facility.

Not only do we test planes, but
we also test NASCAR race cars.

[Hector] Dan, we can
test your vehicle.

[Dan] Well, it's not
going to fly away, is it?

[Drew] No, we'll tie it down.

Then we'll blow smoke over it
and see how the air flows over,

and how aromatically
efficient it is.

Let's get your van, Dan.

[Dan] Hey, let's check it out.



Let's find out how
you can learn more

about measuring in a wind tunnel.

With a special NASA
Connection to the Web,

here's Dr. Shelley
Cainwright to tell you more.

[Dr. Cainwright] Well,
thanks, Jennifer.

I'm visiting a space science
Academy which is being held

at Ann Beard elementary
school in Washington, DC.

This is a SEMA school.

That stands for science,
engineering, mathematics,

and aerospace academy.

It's an enrichment program
that runs on the weekends

and in the summer, and targets
math, science, and technology.

Its partner school is
located in Cleveland, Ohio,

[unclear] elementary school.

In just a minute we'll
hear from a couple

of these science campers
as they demonstrate

[unclear] simulation product called


That's a special software
created just for students

by the learning technology project

at NASA Glenn Research
Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Now if you look just behind me,

you'll see a flight
demonstration went,

with some aeronautical
engineering students

from the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics branch

at Iowa State University
have brought to share

with these younger students and
to serve as mentors to the camp.

So you can see the students here
at Beard are being offered a chance

to try their hands at a number
of technology research tolls.

Let's take a closer look now
at one of those technologies,


This is Alan Simmons,

a seventh-grade student
at Vail Junior High.


[Unclear] we are able to use
technology like a NASA researcher.

[Unclear] computer
based wind habitat


With this simulation, we can
quickly change the position

and shape of the wing,
and modify the air speed,

altitude, and angle of attack.

And then

[unclear] calculate the lift drag.

We are quickly learning the factors

that influence lift
on an airplane wing.

[Unclear] begin at the
NASA Connect web site.

We were able to get
set up by downloading

and installing our own copy of


Anyone can download this simulation
and use it at school or at home.

Let me show you how we have used


We start off my learning about
the basic aerodynamic forces

that affect lift.

Then we

[unclear] our own wing, and
learn how to generate lift.

We can see how much lift we
have generated right here.

After we tested it and
learned about a bunch

of different variables
that affect lift,

we got to work signing our
own wing, based on the meant

at the NASA Connect web site.


[unclear] data


[Dr. Cainwright] Jennifer,
I think you would agree

that these campers have given
us some interesting highlights

on how they are using
technology to conduct experiments.

A question for our viewers to think
about is what is the relationship

between scientific
inquiry and technology?

Let me add, Jennifer, that
our viewers are invited

to try their hand with

[unclear] by visiting the
NASA Connect web site.

They will also find links to kids
corner, where they will design

and test different
airplane models to find

out about how wind
tunnels are being used

to improve NASCAR
performance, and to information

about NASA Connect online chats.

There's also a query card
that features some of our

[unclear] partners
talking about their jobs.

Well, I'm Shelley
Cainwright reporting

from Ann Beard Elementary
School in Washington, DC.

Back to you,


[Voices] Bye!

[Jennifer] Thanks a lot, Shelley.

Well, a few moments
ago, the van was lifted

into the full-scale wind tunnel
and prepped for the big test.

As you can hear, the tunnel is on.

[Dan] Man!

Look at all that turbulence!

No wonder my van is such a slug.

[Drew] With all that turbulence,
this thing'll never move.

[Hector] Do you see, Dan?

With all that equipment
on top of your vehicle,

it's like driving a
refrigerator down the road.

What you're creating is a great
wall of resistance to the airflow.

[Jennifer] OK,

[Hector] So tell us then, what
can we do to reduce this drag

and get Dan to his gigs on time?

[Hector] You can put the
equipment in a wedge shape,

so that would reduce the drag

and help give you a good
slice through the air.

[Mike] Hey, everybody!


[Jennifer] Hey there, Mike.

[Mike] What you got there?


[Drew] Y'all come
down and take a look!

[Voice] Hey Mike,
what do you have here?

[Mike] Well, behold
the van of the future.

[Dan] You're kidding.

[Mike] No.

Your van, like a refrigerator, is
one of the worst aerodynamic shapes

that a designer can work with.

So I challenged myself.

Can I make a van fly?

And here you go.

By building a more
aerodynamic shell onto the front

and adding a tail, a router,
and wings, I built this model

from a computer design.

I actually tested this design

in NASA Langley's basic
aerodynamic research


[Jennifer] Way to go.

[Mike] So, Dan, someday, you
never know, you may be traveling

in your very own flying minivan.

[Dan] Wow.

That'd be great.

I'd never be late again.

[Jennifer] Well, that about wraps
up this episode of NASA Connect.

But before we go, we've got
lots of people we need to think.

Especially the students from
Prince William County math camp,

and Anders Elementary.

Of course, we want to thank
ODU, Hampton University,

the NASA researchers, and
Dr. Shelley Cainwright.

If you would like a videotaped
copy of this NASA Connect show,

and the educators guide a
lesson plans, contact CORE,

the NASA central operation
of resources for educators.

All this information
and more is located

in the NASA Connect web site.

So for Dan and the rest of the NASA
Connect group, I'm Jennifer Poli.

You guys, where did Dan go?


[Dan] Hey guys, you
want to go do a show?

[Voice] How'd you get
this thing running?

[Dan] I measured it out.

[Voice] Dan, I didn't know you
were so handy with a socket wrench.

[Dan] What do you mean?

Metrics, or is that standard?

[Voice] Man, what are
you talking about?

[Dan] Well, I can't
take all the credit

for getting this van running right.

My friends at NASA helped
me measure it all out,

and they showed me a way that
we might travel in the future.

[Star Wars theme.]