Undergraduate Labs

Instrumentation Lab

Third year students in the MAE department are introduced throughout the academic year to 16 different experiments that rise in complexity as the year progresses. The objectives of these experiments is to teach why experiments are being conducted, what are some of the common experimental methods, how results are being assessed, and what are the shortcomings of experiments. Experiments in the first semester start with simple measurement such as strain, and temperature but gradually progress to the characterization of oscillating beams, measurements of the volumetric airflow through a fan or the efficiency of single phase electric motors. By using digital data acquisition students learn about automation of experiments and statistical analysis of large data files. In the second semester, students may chose between experiments that characterize an air compressors, water pump, thermoelectric coolers, electromechanically active materials, heat exchangers, heat transfer phenomena, analyze the extent of brain injury due to head impact in car crashes or the energy transfer associate with human gait, study supersonic flows through nozzles or the aerodynamic characteristics of airfoils in subsonic wind tunnels. Some of these experiments are driven by research activities in the department and provide insight into cutting edge technology. With these experiments, concepts taught in the classroom are brought to life and applied as students gather actual data while learning important testing, data acquisition and reduction techniques.

Subsonic Wind Tunnels

Third year students in the MAE department are introduced to a pair of computer controlled 12”x12” subsonic wind tunnels
capable of generating wind speeds up to 145 mph.  The tunnels are supplied with various aerodynamic shapes such as spheres, cylinders, airfoils and a subscale model of the F-16 fighter aircraft that can be used during academic lab course work for studies of their aerodynamic properties.  With access to the department’s new 3D printer lab, students are able to create and fabricate any aerodynamic shapes they can imagine on various open access CAD programs and mount them to a common sting to study particular aspects of their own interest whether it’s related to course work or thesis and research related topics.  Prescribed academic course work labs are structured to demonstrate basic aerodynamic principles of normal and axial forces, pitch and yaw moments, distributed pressures and angle of attack.  With these tunnels, concepts taught in the classroom are brought to life and applied as students gather actual aerodynamic measurements while learning important testing and data acquisition techniques.

Mechatronics Lab

In UVa’s Mechatronics Lab, students fuse theory and practice – bringing together principles of mechanical, electrical, and software engineering. Here students learn how to integrate microcontrollers, sensors, and smart actuators when designing state-of-the-art mechanisms. The recent drop in cost of imbedded computer technology has revolutionized the way that modern products are developed and manufactured. The Mechatronics Lab ensures that UVa’s engineering students are prepared to succeed on the cutting edge of technology. For example, our current experiments teach students how to program a microcontroller chip that houses eight, parallel, 32-bit processors, is capable of executing 200 million instructions every second, and only costs about five dollars. When students learn to incorporate this type of intelligence into their machines, their devices come alive and are able to automatically adapt to changes in their environment – that is, they read data from sensors, think about it, and then decide how to move their actuators to react to any changes. In this lab, students are also introduced to basic circuit components and measurement tools such as breadboards, oscilloscopes, function generators, and digital multi-meters. Students working on projects for their senior thesis work, capstone design courses, ASME, Baja car, Hoos Flying, and countless other creative outlets offered through the University, frequently use the resources of this lab to help bring their inventions to life.

Rapid Prototyping Lab

Faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and external clients receive parts from and use seven 3D printers, two computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines, and one laser cutter located in the MAE Rapid Prototyping Lab. Six of the 3D printers are Dimension UPRINT Plus machines, which can print nine colors of ABS plastic, have a maximum build size of 8” x 8” x 6” and a minimum layer resolution of .010”. Our FORTUS 3D printer can print in four different material types. It has a maximum build size of 16” x 14” x 16” and a minimum layer resolution of .005” using ABS. One CNC machine is a Rolland Modela 650 router that can cut materials ranging from foam to soft wood with a build size of approximately 25” x 15” x 6”. The other CNC machine is a HAAS OM-2A, 4-axis office mill. This is a state of the art CNC machine that can cut practically any metal with a build size of 12” x 10” x 12”. We also have a 75-watt Universal laser cutter. This extremely accurate, industrial laser cutter can cut, etch, and engrave intricate designs on any material that is not reflective to the laser. The machines have been used to enhance curriculum in courses for all four years of undergraduates. Parts and prototypes have also been manufactured for faculty and graduate research, student groups such as ASME, HOOS FLYING, AIAA, BAJA, and E-STUD. In addition, internal clients such as the Darden Graduate School of Business used our services to design and manufacture parts for a new products and services course, and several external clients have used our manufacturing capabilities to engineer and produce prototypes for inventions.

Machine Shop

The Mechanical and Aerospace Machine shop exists to aid in the manufacture and construction of lab experiments and related test fixtures for use by undergraduate students.  The MAE machine shop offers facilities not readily available elsewhere for student use and allows students to fabricate parts made of steel, brass, aluminum, acrylic, and other materials to a fairly high degree of accuracy.  Many students enjoy the chance for a “hands-on” experience and feel a sense of accomplishment upon learning to use the various machines to aid in their project completion.  An added benefit is the brief, though valuable, experience of gaining insight into the manufacturing and assembly process and the time required to bring a project to fruition. Also, students who have completed the shop safety short course are allowed access to the shop lab, tools, and equipment for use in constructing senior thesis and class projects requiring fabrication.