High school students build turbine engine

Two students took top honors at the Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy’s annual science fair by constructing a turbine engine — that works. Anthony Mosallam (pictured) and Jonathon Deming scrounged up a collection of auto parts and an old leaf blower and put together a loud and fairly powerful jet engine. The turbine compressor came from a Buick Regal. The leaf blower provides the starting air. When the pressure valve indicates 10 psig, a propane valve is turned on. A battery-powered CD lighter, like the type found on most gas stovetops, ignites the propane.

With ignition, the engine spools up to operating speed and can be controlled by backing off or advancing the fuel. The spark is then disconnected, just like on the jets over at LAX. The students have not yet connected a nozzle, so the exhaust just comes out the back side of the compressor. They still generate enough thrust to push the engine and its relatively heavy stand across the floor. The students expect to continue development and would like to refine a model that’s useable for light aircraft flight.

In the process of fabricating their turbine, both students learned how to work with MIG and TIG welding, along with other forms of machinery and tools. Both have expressed a desire to pursue careers in aviation.

Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy is a tuition-free, public charter high school and middle school (grades 7-12) located on Flabob Airport and operated by River Springs Charter School. It offers a broad liberal education, emphasizing science, mathematics, engineering and technology, and using aviation as a context, example and motivator. For more information: Flabob.org.

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