Page 12- The Michigan Daily - Thursday, June 2, 1983
Students get wet feet
in West Engin. tub
By MICHAEL WESTON
What's 20 yards longer than the
Michigan football field, filled with
water, and buried in the basement of
the West Engineering Building?
Some call it "the tank," but officially
it's the Ship Hydrodynamics
Laboratory of the University's Depar-
tment of Naval Architecture and
Marine Engineering. It is the depar-
tment's primary research facility, and
is the largest laboratory of its kind at
any of the nation's ; universities.
IN THE TANK, students study on a
smaller scale what makes a ship float.
Because of the long length of the tank
and recent modernization of the
facilities, invaluable research can be
performed in such areas as ship
propulsion, towing resistance, and
reaction to waves.
"We use the tank as an industrial
tool, for research, and for industrial
testing," said department chairman
Michael Parsons. The department uses
the laboratory to teach ship design to its
Researchers operate the tank from a
10-by-20 foot motorized "carriage," a
large trolley car that rides over the
water. Capable of moving 15 feet per
second, the carriage tows a wooden
model of a ship or other aquatic equip-
ment the length of the tank.
SENSORS constantly feed data from
the object being towed to a computer on
board the carriage, which allows
researchers to see data from their ex-
periments almost immediately.
The tank is supported entirely by
research funds, which come primarily
from private industries, such as oil or
small shipbuilding companies. About 10
percent of the tank's research projects
Naval architecture students prepare a ship building experiment in the 360
foot long water-filled "tank," located in the basement of West Engineering.
are sponsored by the Department of
Defense, Parsons said.
The Navy has its own 3,000 foot tank
near Washington for research pur-
BESIDES providing many industries
with a valuable research facility, the
laboratory employs about 50 students at
a time from various engineering
disciplines for year-round research
"The tank provides a scholarship and
work experience on a junior, senior,
and masters level," said Arman
Toesch, director of the laboratory.
Without the pay they receive, Troesch
said, many students would be unable to
attend the University.
Most undergraduates who go through
the University's program eventually
enter the commercial industries.
Among graduate students, one-third
have joined the off-shore drilling in-
dustry in the last six years.
SOME STUDENTS work for the
Navy, while others join private ship-
The University's program produces
about half of the nation's naval ar-
chitects, and an even larger percentage
of the graduate degree holders. The
University of California at Berkeley
and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology are among the handful of
universities offering degrees in the
The Coast Guard, Navy, and Mer-
chant Marine acadamies also graduate
students in naval sciences, but Parson
said their programs teach primarily ship
operation rather than design. "Most
people who go to the Naval Academy
are ship operators. People from here
are designers," he said.
THE 80-YEAR-OLD tank was recen-
tly modernized after two plans to move
the facility to North Campus were
scrapped. The first plan for a $35
million national laboratory fell through
when the federal government cut its
budget, while a second plan to move the
facility at a cost of $10 to $12 million
proved too expensive.
The half-million dollar face lift that
began in 1980 included modernizing the
computer system; rebuilding the
carriage; replacing the wavemaker
and mock beach; and installing an un-
derwater video system.
Nearly half of the money to renovate
the tank came from private sources,
Parsons said. "(The tank) is better now
then it ever has been in terms of scien-
tific capability," he said.
Scott Slocum, who is finishing his
Ph.D. in the department, remembers
working on a project three years ago
that required a year's worth of work to
recover the data the on-board computer
can now obtain before he leaves the lab.
"The fact that you don't have to go
through the boring work is the greatest
change," Slocum said.
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