Mountains and Planes and Bears, Oh My!

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Group photo up at Avalanche Lake, like no big deal, we just hiked up to a really cool place in an hour or so.

This week has been an adventure, first going from Wisconsin, then a night in Minneapolis, and then a couple days in Montana and now back in Minneapolis. I felt like a giant pinball going back and forth. I hardly know what to say about this week. My phone has about a 100 more photos and I have about a 100 more ideas stuffed into my head. Being a tourist was nice but finally getting started on what I’ll be doing this summer is also nice. Actually that’s a lie, I finally got to go to Glacier National Park.

In general, this was a great introduction to kick off the rest of my summer in Minneapolis now. Next on deck, is further introductions to mentors and the project as well getting ready for field work next week.

Paddle boarding on Lake McDonald with new friends

GPR training in Montana

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GPR training in Montana

Well, this is the first time I am posting to the blog! I have been having technical difficulties the past 2 times! So, this is an old picture of ground penetrating radar training that a few of the interns participated in and it was led by our PI Tony. It ended up being a beautiful day with a gorgeous view. To describe GPR…its like mowing the lawn without the grass being cut. But this device uses images to see below the ground. In the picture are Char on the left and Brandon in the middle. We all had a great time!

At the Beginning

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Upon my arrival, I participated with an Orientation for this REU. Through this relationship, I found a network of resources including fellow visiting researchers, an ID card, and a great mentor who helps me with administrative issues. Then, I met the scientists that I collaborate with on my research project. These mentors include the director of the lab and local professors. These mentors have been essential in bringing me up to speed on the technology behind wind energy, which is not studied at my College. Thanks to their generous help, my research can really thrive.

I work at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, which is an astounding facility. It is located where the Mississippi River runs through downtown Minneapolis. While the urban skyline is beautiful, it pales in comparison to the natural scenery. The lab is located below a magnificent 50-foot waterfall and it is next to roaring rapids; this river dramatically demonstrates the power of fluids. This lab was built below a waterfall so that gravity could be harnessed in bringing the water from above the falls to the experimental facilities within below the falls. As a fluid mechanics laboratory, it uses a lot of water.

Originally, I planned on studying both wave and wind energy. The wave energy experiments, however, are not fully available now; for wave energy is a new research area with a lot of technical issues. Consequentially, I will focus solely upon wind energy. I will specifically study the structure of the wakes that are cast behind wind turbines. As wind moves past a turbine, it becomes slower and more turbulent. If this wake runs across a nearby turbine it will interfere with the turbine’s productivity and longevity. One cannot, however, merely distance turbines far away from each other, because that would increase land, installation, and maintenance costs. Researchers must discover how to balance out these costs and benefits. So, in order to eventually provide insights in designing more efficient wind farms, I will research the structure of a turbine’s wake.

Mud Lake

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Mud Lake

Standing near the inlet to Mud Lake and looking west towards the Mission valley you get this beautiful view. This lake does not live up to it’s name, it is one of the clearest and cleanest lakes you’ll find. Turbidity levels are only slightly higher than tap water.