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Research focuses on practical applications of Wiffle ball aerodynamics

Trustee Scholar Andrew Rau ’08 (Jackson Center, Pa.), who is majoring in mechanical engineering, and Jennifer Rossmann, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, published a research article in the American Journal of Physics in December.

The article, which is entitled “An experimental study of Wiffle ball aerodynamics,” describes the research performed by Rossmann and Rau to measure the aerodynamic forces on a Wiffle ball as a function of the ball orientation and Reynolds number, the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces.

The article describes Wiffle ball aerodynamics as an accessible way to introduce topics such as boundary layer separation and transition to turbulence. It also gives students the potential to study more complex fluid mechanical phenomena.

“The dynamics of Wiffle ball flight are intriguing because of the fluid-mechanical phenomena that occur as a result of the hole orientation to the flow direction,” says Rau. “Unconventional geometries like the Wiffle ball are always interesting to study because their complexities lead to flow patterns which are oftentimes completely unpredictable through theoretical computational fluid mechanics.”

Rau’s research consisted of two main parts. First, he completed a literature review of blood vessel mechanics. Second, he used the College’s wind tunnel facility to study the lift and drag forces on the Wiffle ball. The data he collected, under the guidance of Rossmann, served as the basis for the article.

Rau conducted the research with Rossmann as a part of the EXCEL Scholars program, which provides undergraduates with the opportunity to work closely with faculty on specific, significant research projects.

  • Mechanical Engineering
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  • EXCEL/Undergraduate Research
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