Potsdam teen will travel to Los Angeles to present his design for an inflatable airplane
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 5:31 pm

By MATT LINDSEY

POTSDAM -- A Potsdam High School sophomore will soon travel to Los Angeles to make a presentation on an inflatable airplane he designed and tested in a wind tunnel he built in his parent’s basement.

Scott Bollt will speak about his project, "Inflatable Airplane Design and Optimization for Low Reynolds Numbers," at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) May 11 to 16.

“It took me all year to make and I have been putting in long days, sometimes working all day…even until midnight” Bollt said. It taught me about hard work but it was worth it.”

He won the trip to Los Angeles after earning Highest Honors at the prestigious Dr. Nelson Ying Tri-Region Science and Engineering Fair in Onondaga County, competing with students from all over New York. The advancement to ISEF is the “most coveted award because it is probably the hardest to win,” Bollt said.

Bollt tested his airplane inside a wind tunnel that he built himself in his parent’s basement. “The design was based off of a desktop-sized wind tunnel I built last year,” said Bollt.

The wind tunnel is an open return suction design that utilizes two repurposed barn fans to suck the air through the tunnel, he said.

“All of the aerodynamic testing occurs here. Behind this section is the diffuser section which slows the air down and acts a barrier between the test section and the turbulent fans. The whole tunnel is airtight to maximize efficiency,” Bollt said.

The contraction section is made of cardboard. Its job is to increase the efficiency of the tunnel and also to reduce turbulence.

Bollt said in the contraction there lies the streamers constructed of straws and mesh. They also help streamline the air. The next section is the test section, which has smooth acrylic walls, and the highest airspeed.

“I can remember being four or five years old and watching the Blue Angels” Bollt said in describing what drew him to science, most specifically aerodynamics.

The design of Bollt’s inflatable airplane is specific for low Reynolds numbers. Reynolds number is a value that describes the properties of a gas or liquid when something else moves through it, Bollt says.

The wing of the inflatable airplane was optimized in the wind tunnel. The wing was then used on the inflatable airplane. The presentation consists of a tri-fold with information in the form of equations, bullets, and pictures. The inflatable plane and wing models are also included in the presentation.

At the fair in Onondaga County, he also won two other honors. They included the Innovative Engineering Award, given out by a company or organization and not the fair itself, for excellence in engineering, as well as the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair 2014 Ying Scholar $1,000 award.

“Every student receives the most important award, an amazing day in which you share your own work with knowledgeable and sincerely interested adults who look forward to interviewing you,” Bollt said.

“My favorite part is meeting new people and talking with the kids,” he said.

Just as important to Bollt is the excitement of getting to explain your work to “PhD's and other distinguished people.”

He credits his participation in chorus in assisting him to becoming a better public speaker. He has given presentation in front of some of the industries experts. Bollt scored a perfect score on a NYSMA solo.

During down time, he says his interests include remote control vehicles, bike, the cross-country club and competitive running.

Bollt plans to look into colleges including Stanford and Cal-Tech during some down time before the fair in LA.