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From the River Nile to the IIHR Wave Basin

Posted on January 12th, 2014
IIHR Associate Research Engineer Yugo Sanada (left) and graduate student Haitham Elshiekh at the IIHR Wave Basin.

IIHR Associate Research Engineer Yugo Sanada (left) and graduate student Haitham Elshiekh at the IIHR Wave Basin.

Haitham Elshiekh grew up in a village along the River Nile in northern Sudan, near that legendary river’s fifth cataract, a rocky whitewater rapids. Most of the men in the village earned their living as fishermen, and watching the small fishing boats navigate the river was intriguing for a young boy fascinated by the river. When he was 10 years old and visiting family in a coastal city, Elshiekh and his cousins even built a small, primitive boat and sailed it on the Red Sea.

As a child, Elshiekh was particularly fascinated by the turbulence of the water moving over the rocks of the fifth cataract, though he didn’t understand the physics. But he knew he wanted to learn more, and when he had a chance to study fluid mechanics at the University of Iowa, Elshiekh took advantage of the opportunity.

Today, Elshiekh says he works with two of the world’s most brilliant minds in ship hydrodynamics, Professor Fred Stern and IIHR Associate Research Scientist Yugo Sanada. “I’ve been learning a lot just by working with them,” Elshiekh says. He is pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, while also conducting experimental research at the IIHR Wave Basin, where he and Yugo have been studying two navy combat ship designs, the Tumblehome and the Delft catamaran.

The wave basin facility allows researchers to measure the motion of a model-scale ship that is free to move in any direction — straight ahead, zigzag, full circle, and capsize. Supported by an eight-ton overhead carriage, three data acquisition systems track the models’ motion, shadowing the vessels to within +/-100mm. These systems allows researchers to analyze the ships’ performance and predict how they will behave in real-life conditions, created in the wave basin by six wavemakers.

As they maneuver the free-moving radio-controlled models at the wave basin, Elshiekh and Yugo focus on three main points: 1) the drifting distance and direction in turning tests; 2) straight-ahead speed loss due to waves; and 3) the zigzag overshoot trajectory angle, or “cushion of safety” needed to navigate a zigzag path safely through waves. The next step for the Tumblehome and Delft catamaran model-scale ships will be PIV, or particle image velocimetry. With PIV, researchers can study the wave generated by the movement of the body of the ship. “I can’t wait to see that for the Delft catamaran,” Elshiekh says.

Elshiekh especially enjoys experimental research like the work at the wave basin, which allows researchers to study and understand a real-life problem, rather than a simulation. “Things happen right in front of your eyes,” he explains.

For Elshiekh, working at the IIHR Wave Basin is the culmination of the small boy’s dream, watching fishing boats navigate the River Nile. “When I took the fluid mechanics course here at the University of Iowa, I knew it was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life working on,” he says.

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