As we studied forces and wind in my senior elective, Atmospheric Science, I pondered an appropriate project for them. As I sat on the tarmac at LAX last summer, I had the idea for the students to locate and site a new airport for an existing city. This would require students to understand the concept of prevailing winds and how runway locations are determined by analyzing prevailing winds.
Didn’t think there was a website that explained orienting runways? Yep, there is. NASA’s Virtual Skies website has a whole page on airport design! Who knew?
Next, we needed to find prevailing wind data. I wanted this data to be in the form of wind roses as the data is easier to analyze visually. Didn’t think there was a website with historical wind roses? Yep, there is. Windhistory.com allows to select cities on a map and generate a wind rose for data for the last ten years or so.
Then the big challenge. How would students represent the topography of their proposed airport location? Google Earth gives a reasonable representation of topography. I wanted them to 3D print the topography around their location but I found no easy way to accomplish this. Until I found this little website, terrainator.com. Developed by a gentleman in England, terrainator allows students to zoom into a specific location, select that location and then, from their selection, produce a STL file suitable for 3D printing. You can either print it yourself (thats a 5 pound fee on Paypal) or you can have it print through Shapeways (thats a bit more in the pound department).
You can also change the size of your 3D print as well as the amplification. The 3D print of the UCLA campus was rather high resolution. You could see the 405, Sunset and Wilshire. You don’t get any buildings – just topography. But what an awesome little website!