In the basement of the Curie Hall building at Radford University, a new wind tunnel machine is in play.
About the size of a canoe, on this day, the new wind tunnel is testing wind drag on small wooden cars. Senior physics student Brian Uthe is testing the theory that the divots in golf balls, which make it aerodynamic, might work on cars too.
"It's so much fun and it's relevant stuff"
Brian said adding divots on the side of a car might help it get better gas mileage.
"People have dabbled in it but they haven't really controlled the elements like I'm controlling right now."
After drilling different size holes in wooden planks, Uthe tests his theory in the wind tunnel.
The divot idea may have legs. Physics professor Rhett Herman says his student may be onto something.
"The sweet spot for wherever the divots start to make a difference is sitting right at about interstate speeds. 55-60 miles per hour somewhere around there."
A fog machine blows white smoke around the shape of the car, while meters show numbers that may eventually help prove or disprove the divot theory. The point is this wind tunnel, which can reach speeds of 150 miles an hour, is a brand new tool for undergrads. Professor Herman says the new machine will open eyes and research.
"We've only had this thing for a year. We're just trying to figure out what kind of projects we can turn on undergraduates loose on.''