The design and testing of a modular Formula Student wind tunnel model and control system for aerodynamic concept evaluation
Group Members
Thomas Gilles, Jack Routly, Chris Sheffer, Lee Shaun Theodore, Anokh Vithayathil, Adil Webster
Professor Bharatham Ganapathisubramani
Renan Soares
Formula Student is a competition that challenges university students to develop a formula style race car, where aerodynamic downforce can enable high-speed cornering to reduce lap times and increase the team’s points score. This project developed a modular wind tunnel model with in-built actuation to perform intensive aerodynamic concept evaluation across different conditions as seen on track. The completed model will serve as a valuable resource to the Southampton Formula Student Team to improve aerodynamic performance and provide the MSc Race Car Aerodynamics programme with interactive experimental testing in the university 7’ x 5’ and RJ Mitchell wind tunnels.

The design process involved computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations on blockage effects and the accommodation of a high-performance data acquisition package to define model scale. Aero sensitivity studies defined the modularity of aerodynamic components and actuation methods to represent different track conditions. Wheels with representative suspension were designed and manufactured at a fraction of industry standard cost. Track testing of the full-scale car provided data to inform design decisions, and finite element analysis models ensured light-weighted structural components met strength and stiffness targets.
Software-controlled electronic actuation maximised wind-on efficiency during tight testing schedules and integrated with the tunnel systems. The first of its kind to be implemented in a Formula Student team, the completed wind tunnel model can verify proven methods and solutions as well as pioneer novel design ideas. Data from wind tunnel tests in the 7’×5’ and RJ Mitchell were used to confirm aerodynamic trends seen in CFD simulations.

Plan view of the Model – Cutaway to show Electronic and Mechanical Systems

Cutaway to show Electronic and Mechanical Systems

1 High performance Data aquisition package
2 FE validated metal constrction with rapidly modifiable modular geometry
3 Roll mechanism incorporating high-thrust linear actuator and double-plated rocker mechanism
4 Attitude measurement by infrared sensors and magnetic mechanical rotary encoder
5 Double-wishbone suspension with no pushrod
6 Adjustable-height surfaces for aerodynamics
7 Multi-part 3D-printed wheels


Model set up for Test #2 in the RJ Mitchell Tunnel


CFD image showing flow along a cross sectional plane through the Formula Student car. This image demonstrates the large curvature of flow particularly near the rear wing.



¾ View of the Model