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Tow Tank

Academic Advisors

Professors Christopher Muir and Douglas Kelley

Team Members

Ana Garduno

Mia Molnar

Savannah Schisler

Emlyn Thorogood

Figure 1: Full Tow Tank Assembly


The Advanced Mechanical Design course at the University of Rochester, ME 205, tasks groups of fourth-year mechanical engineering students with finding a problem and solving it using an iterative design process. Through this, the TowTank team was tasked with designing a physical experiment to further understand free-surface fluid dynamics, that also aided the separate undergraduate course, Fluid Dynamics. The final goal of this project was to create a physical prototype of a tow tank system that works alongside the university’s athletic center and that can measure pitch, roll, yaw, and various horizontal forces (such as drag). From working on simulations to machining elements modeled in CAD to eventual prototyping, the TowTank team ultimately delivered a device that fulfilled nearly all initial requirements and specifications.


Project Description

Create a tow tank system that students in a fluid dynamics course could use to conduct labs.

  1. Must work alongside the Goergen Athletic Center Pool at the University of Rochester
  2. Tow tank rig must travel in a straight line
  3. Must have a flexible, modular head for different model attachments to run through the water
  4. Device user must be able to control the speed
  1. Tow tank must be able to measure drag and lift with a surface speed between 0 and 1 m/s, and be able to collect at least 5 points of data
  2. Must be able to measure drag and lift over 5 meters
  3. Total cost of the tow tank must be less than $1000
  4. Must weigh a total of no more than 13.6 kg
  5. Must be able to fit in a 0.6m x 1.5m x 2m closet for storage
  6. Must be able to test masses of no greater than 1.5kg
  1. Physical prototype
  2. CAD model and bill of materials
  3. Theory of Operation Document
  4. Written Report
  5. Data Interface
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