UOIT wind tunnel gets funding to ‘blow away’ the competition

OSHAWA, ONT. Economic development minister Steven Del Duca announces provincial funding for UOIT's automotive centre of excellence (ACE).

UOIT’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) is getting a $5 million investment to fund improvements to the state-of-the-art testing facility which will assist auto makers in developing more fuel efficient vehicles.


Minister of Economic Development and Growth Steven Del Duca was at ACE on Feb. 12 to announce $4 million in funding will come from the province.


The other million will come from automotive supplier Magna International, according to David Pascoe, vice-president of Engineering at Magna.


The money will be used to pay for the addition of a “rolling-road” or moving ground plane (MGP) to ACE’s climatic wind tunnel.


The tunnel simulates harsh weather conditions, such as extreme temperatures or hurricane-force winds and is routinely used to test various aspects of vehicles. It can test the overall resiliency and wind resistance of automobiles—something which can lead to the development of more environmentally-conscious vehicle designs.


John Komar, Director of ACE, said the tunnel mainly focuses on measuring the aerodynamics of automobiles. “Getting the best aerodynamic design [in vehicles] is one of the elements you need to reduce greenhouse gases,” he said.


A MPG is essentially a high-tech moving belt under the vehicles which improves testing conditions, especially when measuring the aerodynamics of the underside of a vehicle in motion. It’s like a treadmill, but for cars.


Dr. Steven Murphy, incoming president of UOIT, said the installation of a MPG will “transform” the ACE into an industry-leading test centre, and said the investments represent “a vote of confidence for our university.”


Del Duca said it is important for the province to invest in innovative facilities like ACE, because the auto industry is rapidly developing with new technologies.


“What we’re seeing here in this centre is the convergence of high-tech and auto-tech,” said Del Duca. “What you’re doing here is going to be as big a change for the industry as the change was from carriages to cars. And you’re a big reason why Ontario is leading the way in the auto sector.”


Since opening its doors in 2011, the ACE climatic wind tunnel has been used for a wide variety of testing purposes, not just cars and trucks.


Toronto Fire Service has used the tunnel for research and training exercises in blizzard-like conditions. Companies have used the facility to test and develop drones that are more effective at flying in high winds.


At this year’s Olympics, Team Canada’s alpine skiers will be wearing suits which were extensively tested at the tunnel to minimize wind resistance on their speedy descent.


In his announcement, Del Duca said the investments will help students get more hands-on, “experiential learning.”


“It will give students the tools to train and conduct research in a high-tech environment, preparing them for the jobs of the future,” said Del Duca.


The wind tunnel is mainly used by students from engineering and kinesiology programs at the university. It is also occasionally used for research projects involving other programs, especially those related to the STEM fields.