David Taylor's Marine Test Tank

Mr. C. S. Yorke
1981, Vol. 13, No. 2,


Between September 1979 and June 1980, David Taylor, a pupil at Swaffham Hamond's High School designed and built a test tank for model boats as his major project for '0' level Technology (Cambridge Board). The project was also entered for the Schools Design Prize (Design Council) and won a prize. The tank is now the property of the school and is in constant use. This is an account of the project.

David wanted to build an airship. It would have to be a model, he realized, but he wanted to test the feasibility of larger designs capable of carrying enormous loads. The whole ship, he felt, could be a huge aerofoil section which would supply dynamic lift. I pointed out that Barnes Wallis had said that airships should never be flown with dynamic lift as it made them susceptible to catastrophic stalling and that it was suspected by many, Wallis and Nevil Shute included, that this may have been a contributory factor to the RIOI disaster. David quietly pointed out that what was true in the 1920s and 30s was not necessarily true today: advances had been made in material science and aero-engines. But I began to feel we were getting lost in detail. What gas could we use? I wouldn't counenance Hydrogen. And where would we get a supply of expensive Helium? Firmly, and with great regret, I ruled out the project.

Guiding pupils towards a suitable 5th year project is always a problem, but I could see that in this case it was going to be particularly acute. David is a boy with large ideas and the ability to carry them out, but had we the resources to meet his demands, particularly financially? His project would, we decided, have to be something for the school so that we could share the cost, but also it would have to be something he was interested in. A consideration of David's interest didn't narrow the field much; he is interested in most things technical, but I knew what I wanted - a test tank for model boats. And that fitted in nicely with one of David's many hobbies.

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