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Student-Designed Flume Arrives at NWTC

January 3, 2018

Seven students stand in front of a water flume

Mines students at the NWTC in front of the water flume they constructed as part of their capstone project with NREL. (Photo by Lee Jay Fingersh/NREL)

Last year, Colorado School of Mines (CSM) students embarked on a project—pitched and sponsored by NREL—that gave them the opportunity to plan, design, and construct a flume for testing and characterizing hydrokinetic power devices. The project was one of several open to CSM students as part of the Capstone Design@Mines program, designed to give engineering students real-world project experience with industry sponsors. NREL’s pitch was intended to help stimulate innovative marine and hydrokinetic and hydropower designs and expose Colorado universities to water power.

This project is now complete, and the flume the students built was transported to the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) on Dec. 7.

"The design and construction of the flume provided invaluable hands-on learning for the Mines students," said Elise DeGeorge, senior project leader in the Wind and Water Power Programs. "The modular design of the flume also provides a fundamental sandbox for NREL engineers to develop a more formal test environment for a collegiate hydropower competition to stimulate interest in water power as a career path, as future funding may allow."

During this school year, NREL will work with a different CSM team as part of the Capstone program to take the project a step further. The new team will construct a small-scale, modular, underwater current turbine testing kit for use inside the water flume. The kit will create an adaptable model designed to encourage water-power education and innovative thinking for audiences such as students and museum visitors. In addition to educational outreach, the flume will help NREL lead bench-scale validation for systems such as advanced control algorithms.