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Designing and making things. Manu Sharma

While walking on the streets of Gatlinburg, one spring evening, a fascinating art shop captured my attention which showcased wooden wind twisters that people hang on their balconies as art decor. I thought what if wind turbines could be designed as a "thing of beauty" and have a visual appeal while 2kW system cost less than $3,000. This wind turbine was going to be made of fabric which made it ultra low cost and light while still highly reliable.

Design of the fabric turbine blade. (similar fabric used in yacht sails)

Being an aerospace engineering student, I understood the aerodynamics of wind turbine blades and began to work on my idea. After a year of research on wind turbine blades and testing preliminary results with the industry’s best computational fluid dynamics techniques, I founded Nuovo Wind, with a mission to introduce ultra-low cost personal wind turbines accessible to everyone, including people living in Africa and Asia where more than half of a billion people live in an electricity shortage. Nuovo Wind received starting capital from EmbryRiddle Aeronautical University where it developed first 3 prototypes and later raised over $40,000 in seed capital and participated in Start-Up Chile, a world class start-up incubator. Nuovo Wind also became one of the top 50 student startups in U.S. according to Kairos Society. Design Approach: Economics! The central parameter of this design was the cost and making this unit breakeven in less than 3 years.

Custom designed 2kW axial flux generator

Wind Turbine Generator from Inside. The design of this generator was one of the most innovative solution. The generator parts are embedded in the wind turbine pole which not only helps resist bending loads at high wind speed but less parts. Less cost. My team and I manufactured these parts in our machine shop in Chile using lathe, mill, water jet.

Generator on left. Wind turbine skeleton on right

Our Machine Shop in Vina Del Mar, Chile.

Making initial prototype of wind turbine blade with wooden ribs

Wind-Tunnel testing of 3D printed Nuovo Wind turbine scaled model (left). Early prototypes of standard vertical wind turbine

One thing I am very passionate about is learn by doing. Being a space enthusiast, I came across an opportunity of developing open source "NanoLabs" or satellite platform for students and researchers to conduct microgravity research aboard International Space Station and Virgin Galactic SpaceShip 2. I co-founded Infinity Aerospace in September 2012. Infinity Aerospace has won a contract from NanoRacks to develop ArduLab (our first product). we have over 25 pre -orders from universities who have launch slot for conducting research aboard ISS.

ArduLab prototype in development. Polycarbonate structure made through waterjet. I work at TechShop and with local machine shops in the Bay Area.

What is the future of structures in space if they can be 3D printed in Space? In 2011, I worked with Made in Space, Inc at Nasa Ames Research Center and develop optimized structures (using Darwinian evolution theory/genetic algorithms) which can be 3D printed in space. This design is 30 times lighter and have same structural rigidity.

When 3D printing in space, the design is not restricted in traditional shapes and sizes. In this picture, an ultra-light shell structure for 3D printing satellites in space

As far as I remember, I built my first airplane out of Styrofoam when I was 10. That airplane design was too ahead from its time and quite similar to stealth bomber B-2. My fascination about unusual airplane designs grew over the time and I started designing unusual aircraft designs on papers, then made styrofoam models, a small table fan at one end of my long hallway was my wind-tunnel and finally the first flights took off from the terrace to the ground. In the next 10 years, I was deeply driven by an idea of blending art with engineering. When we look at any man-made object, the first impact in our brain is through visuals.

We often times do not emphasize on aesthetics and minute details when it comes to mission oriented engineering designs. However, adding an additional dimension of aesthetics truly sets apart extra-ordinary from ordinary. In January 2011, I took a class with Professor Snorri Gudmundsson (former Chief Aerodynamicist, Cirrus Aircraft Company) where I was about to design an airplane for a mission to perform over 8 hour continuous surveillance over Galapagos Islands to stop poaching of endangered animal species.

Infinity II design’s crucial parameter was the cockpit. The mission required the aircraft to be airborne for more than 8 hours non-stop and the feelings of pilot cannot be negotiated. Definitely a huge viewing angle is required for such missions but at the same time the cockpit has to be simple and spacious. I emphasized on a clean and simple design. Research over various seating positions was conducted to find the most comfortable position for a pilot and accordingly the space around the seats evolved to support various flight instruments. If you notice, the flight controls dashboard starts from the apex of the aircraft and expands in the volume towards the pilot. This makes the volume more interactive and lively.

Almost 50 design iterations were conducted and for every design we took the best elements and mutated the bad elements of design which evolved over the course of time to Infinity II.

This aircraft design has unusual silent cockpit and a clear view from the cockpit for aerial reconnaissance because the engine is placed at the far aft of the pilot.

During undergrad, I designed and fabricated the bi-static radars as part of my job as Research Assistant in Electrical Engineering department. These radars had tracking device and mount which had to be custom designed for the dishes. I used simple and low cost garden carts as base to be able to move the systems easily.

Presenting FlexFoil at TEDxEmbryRiddle Aircraft have existed for about 200 years and have gone through unprecedented evolution from the Wright Flyer to the Boeing X-48 B; however, these aircraft still cannot beat natural, biological evolution when it comes to efficiency. We, in fact, have just entered into an era where we can start mimicking nature’s design whether it is bio-inspired airplanes or the human brain with help of the latest technology. Darwin’s theory of evolution tells us that birds and fish have evolved for billions of years into their present design as nature has shaped them into highly efficient flying and swimming creatures. Birds morph their wings precisely to perform a task during flight which not only makes them efficient but also very maneuverable. The wing morphing concept is inspired from nature and the concept of changing the wing characteristics while airborne can breed a completely new class of ‘UltraEfficient’ UAVs. Although the research was focused towards developing artificial intelligence and algorithms, I also designed a mechanical system (top left) that will be used to verify our findings.

In my freshmen year (year 2009), I launched a camera to space and photographed stars and Venus in the daylight from 100,000 feet. Going to space is expensive and I couldn't wait for the Virgin Galactic $200,000 ticket price to go down. The camera captured some of the most breath taking pictures of the earth and space while surviving bone-chilling -40 Celsius and almost vacuum environment. This project also became onne of the earliest balloon launches done by amateur students. I became one of the youngest student to photograph stars and planets in daylight from over 100,000 feet.

Experimenting with a Miter Saw Nuovo Wind was selected to showcase at expo inside New York Stock Exchange. I needed a table for business cards to with our theme of the booth. I wanted to experiment with sharp geometric shapes with some abstractness. I designed this table by experimenting with the compound cuts using the Miter Saw.

I worked as a project manager of airspace optimization at Dubai Airports for a British company, Serco. The picture shown on this page is probably one of the first of its kind real plot of air traffic over Dubai airspace (about 140 NM radius from the airport). The image contains approximately 10 million radar points of all the airplanes that were in Dubai airspace for 24 hours, captured every 3-4 seconds. It turned out that such a global view of airspace provides a great insight of air traffic and sometimes airspace optimization becomes so clear with such insight. One of my many side projects for fun.

Manu Sharma


I absolutely love MAKING things. I have always been a builder and sometimes a wrecker (for instance, loved opening radios and engineering equipment that said "warranty void if seal is broken"). Brought up in a family of engineers and artists where almost every generation had a lab for experiments in home where I had best childhood memories of making airplanes, film projectors, gramophones, fixing radios, mixing chemicals (Na in H2o is kind of fun) and peeling leaf and dissecting small insects only to see them in microscope. My dream is to design, build and fly a spaceship to outer space. I find pleasure in finding things out; in finding the answers to how things work. I am also passionate about designing airplanes and space exploration. I believe in working on extraordinary things that will solve the problems of this generation and create a better future for the next. After years of research in aerodynamics, electrical & mechanical engineering, and evolutionary algorithms, I realized that I could re-engineer the wind turbines and make it ultra affordable for people. So I gave it a go and started a company in sophomore year and raised over $40,000 in seed capital. Recently, I have co-founded aerospace start-up which is developing open source satellite platforms for International Space Station and Virgin Galactic SpaceShip 2.

Manu Sharma | | 386.383.7694

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