by Simona Dwass
Simona Dwass is the Makerspace Education Specialist at Fluxspace. She has a background in product design and is passionate about the benefits of hands-on learning and physical creation in the classroom.
July 26, 2022
This blog post is a tutorial for how to make a wind tunnel using just a few simple materials.
The hardest material to source is the plastic sheeting, which is a material called PET-G. It's a type of plastic with a low melting point that's most commonly used for making hollow shapes like clamshell packaging. I bought a sheet of PET-G for our first wind tunnel a couple months ago from Amazon, but it seems like the item has been removed from Prime recently. We're lucky to have many plastic supply companies located around Norristown, so I called a couple businesses asking if I could buy a single 4' by 8' sheet of PET-G, and in just a few minutes I found a spot I could drive to that day. You'll want the sheet to be at most 0.04" thick so that it's flexible enough to curl into a tube. The first sheet I got from Amazon was 0.01", whereas the local business had 0.03" as their thinnest material. Both worked great!
I recommend making your wind tunnel using 14" embroidery quilting hoops, so that your circumference is just under 4 feet. This allowed us to make two wind tunnels from one sheet of plastic (PET-G is usually sold in 4' by 8' sheets). The first wind tunnel we built has an 18" diameter, and used a 4' by 5' sheet of plastic, meaning that the last 3 feet of our roll will be used for another project.
Wrapping the plastic around the embroidery hoops is a two person job. Wrap the plastic around the inside of the embroidery hoops, and add the outside hoop to secure the plastic in place and hold the cylindrical shape. You can also add a bit of clear packing tape if you want to be sure everything stays together.
We built the cardboard structure using a couple of different designs in our three wind tunnels. The most important thing is that the cardboard structure has two layers with holes in them. The bottom layer will have the fan resting on it, and will allow air to enter the fan from the bottom. The second layer will go over the fan and will allow space for students to put the parachute into the tunnel. The second layer is also what the plastic wind tunnel rests on! You can trace the tunnel circumference on the top of both boxes in order to cut a hole of the perfect size.