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QVIP team earns top prize in CAN-RGX Design Challenge

AIMING HIGH: Queen’s engineering students Kate Lahaie, Becca Bonham-Carter, Louis Burelle of the Queen’s Vorticity Innovation Project (QVIP) with the NRC Dassault Falcon 20 modified for parabolic flight. (SEDS-Canada photo)

Big congratulations to Becca Bonham-Carter (Sci ‘19 Apple Math), Louis Burelle (Sci ‘18 Apple Math, MASc ‘20 Mech. Eng) , Josh Galler (Sci ‘16 Mech. Eng., Ph.D candidate Mech. Eng), Katelyn Morrison (Sci ‘18 Apple Math), Ben Simons (Sci ‘19 Apple Math), and Kate Lahaie (Sci ‘18 Apple Math), of the Queen’s Vorticity Innovation Project (QVIP) for winning The Magellan Award at the Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment (CAN-RGX) Design Challenge last month at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa.

Each team in the competition designed and built an experiment executed in microgravity on the Falcon 20, an airplane modified by the NRC to perform parabolic maneuvers. The award is the top competition prize, given to the team that displays excellence in leadership, engineering, teamwork, and enthusiasm. The prize includes registration costs and a travel stipend for the team to attend and present their research at the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Canada annual space conference, Ascension, at the University of Alberta in March. 

Writes team member Louis Burelle:

The premise of our experiment is based on the fact that so much of fluid behaviour in micro-gravity is not well-understood, yet it is prevalent in all space systems. Systems like fuel lines or water purification but also fluids within the human body. Astronauts returning to Earth are recorded as having a lower red bloods cell (RBC) count as well as damaged RBCs after spaceflight. Our experiment aimed to investigate the behaviour of vortex rings in micro-gravity to hopefully capture the different stresses in the fluid which we posit may contribute to the damaged blood cells. We designed an actuated piston-cylinder mechanism to inject an solution of suspended iron oxide particles into a filled tank of water. Using a camera we would assess changes in the size, shape, and velocity of the vortex ring as well as the concentration of particles trapped in the ring. The experiment is also inspired by the Canadian experiments in the Vascular Series aboard the ISS, though from the application of engineering and physics rather than biology and medicine. We hope that this different perspective can offer new insights into real problems in the space industry, especially when considering the increasing possibility of seeing space travel in our lifetimes.


The team's factulty advisor is Queen's engineering professor Dr.David Rival.


MICROGRAVITY: Queen’s engineering students Kate Lahaie and Louis Burelle (front) aboard the NRC Dassault Falcon 20 as the aircraft begins its initial descent. (National Research Council video)