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January 13, 2022

Power Play: A New Exhibit Introduces Young Scientists to Engineering Simulation

Coastal Scotland is gaining worldwide attention for its central role in the sustainable energy industry, with media outlets like CNN, the BBC, and The Washington Post publishing recent stories on the region’s global leadership in tidal energy. Ansys customer Orbital Marine Power is at the forefront of this movement and recently launched the world’s largest tidal energy generator, which supplies energy to 2,000 homes in Orkney, Scotland.

So it’s fitting that the Aberdeen Science Centre, an all-ages science museum located in the nearby town of Aberdeen, recently debuted a new interactive exhibit on sustainable energy — in this case, wind energy. The exhibit, called Blade Pitch, includes both a physical prototype of a working windmill and a real-time, simulated model of the windmill, along with the airflows that are turning its blades.

Blade Pitch uses Ansys Discovery

The new Blade Pitch exhibit at Aberdeen Science Centre leverages Ansys Discovery to show how changing the angle of a wind turbine blade in response to wind speed can optimize power generation.

Featuring computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software from Ansys, the exhibit enables young visitors to manipulate the blades of a physical windmill, including their orientation, as well as the airflows directed at the blades. As they change the dynamics of the windmill in a hands-on manner, an Ansys-generated CFD simulation shows the real-time effects of their actions in a colorful, engaging manner. Young scientists can gain an early exposure to the concepts of aerodynamics and sustainable energy capture in a fun, engaging environment.

The Blade Pitch exhibit was conceived by Hüttinger, a world leader in designing interactive exhibits for science centers and museums around the world. The company approached Ansys’ elite channel partner CADFEM, a leading provider of CAE simulation software, which in turn recruited Ansys. The Aberdeen exhibit is based on Ansys Discovery, the first simulation-driven design tool that combines instant physics application, high-fidelity simulation, and interactive geometry modeling in a single, easy-to-use experience.

Boy at ASC

“We developed Ansys Discovery to be radically easier to use and faster allowing many more engineers to benefit from the insights of simulation” says Mark Hindsbo, VP and GM of the Design Business Unit at Ansys, “and it’s delightful to see this be put to the ultimate test in the hands of aspiring young scientists as they interact with this cool exhibit and gain a deeper understanding of the physics around us.”

The Value of Hands-On Learning

According to Matthias Rudloff, project manager for Hüttinger, it’s absolutely critical to demonstrate scientific concepts to young students in the most hands-on, tangible way possible — and the Blade Pitch exhibit accomplishes that goal.

Family at ASC

“All of our exhibits promote exploration and understanding, based on multisensory experiences. And multisensory means that you interact in a physical way with the exhibits,” Rudloff points out “It’s a full-body engagement, so you are not going into an exhibition and just reading or looking into screens but you see something, you hear something, you touch something, you smell something. We are trying to involve all the senses to make a really interesting, appealing exhibition for visitors.

“The best thing about Blade Pitch is that the visitor’s impact happens in real time,” he continues. “The visitor makes changes to the prototype model of a windmill, and the Ansys simulation produces an immediate feedback showing how the physics have changed. When I saw the exhibit for the first time, I thought, oh, OK, it’s an animation. But it’s not. It’s real-time, it’s live, it’s parallel to the physical thing. And I think that is really the wow factor.”

ASC preview day one

Blade Pitch allows young scientists to learn about the principles of wind power generation in a fun, engaging, hands-on way.

Each year, tens of thousands of visitors to the Aberdeen Science Centre ― including students on school-sponsored field trips, as well as families — will have the opportunity to use professional-grade Ansys software to learn about airflows, energy capture, and other topics in a hands-on manner.

Kostas Minas, head of education and learning at the Aberdeen Science Centre, notes that the exhibit has been enthusiastically embraced by guests of all ages. “Our visitors’ feedback is overwhelmingly positive for the Blade Pitch exhibit,” he says. “Everyone seems to love it; they find it fascinating. The fact that it’s so tactile really enhances their enthusiasm and satisfaction. I would hope that everyone who comes through our doors would be absolutely inspired to get involved with science in general, and specifically topics like engineering and sustainability.

ASC preview day two

Blade Pitch is one of a series of exhibits in the Science Centre’s “Energy Zone,” which highlights important renewable sources such as wind power. Scotland is a global center for sustainable energy.

“One young student said that he wanted to ask for Blade Pitch as a Christmas gift,” Minas continues. “I can’t imagine a better endorsement than that.”

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