Contrary to belief, there’s more to skydiving than just jumping out of a plane. Simply by moving your head, your arms or legs, you can dramatically affect your trajectory. Changes in pressure, resistance and turbulence will also alter your downward path through the air. This was the topic of exploration for students taking part in an Adept Scientific workshop during an Engineering Festival held at IWM Duxford last month. This unique regional event, which attracted over 500 students, was organised by STEM Team East to promote engineering and inspire young people to study science and maths at schools, as well as pursue careers in these areas.
During the workshop, students modelled the trajectory of a wingsuit-wearing skydiver and then explored the different sources of instability and aspects that might change the divers aerodynamics. They then used the Quanser QUBE-Servo to demonstrate that instability and show how you might use control theory to counter its effects. The assumption is that skydivers who have a better understanding of the different forces acting upon them are able to achieve a more controlled descent.
This popular workshop was just one of a range of practical activities on the day that gave students the chance to work with qualified engineers to solve engineering challenges and gain ‘on-the-job’ experience.