XLAB International Science Camp



Welcome to all potential participants and interested readers!


Beginning in 2003, in 2016 the XLAB International Science Camp (ISC) took place for the 14th time, and each year also the course Physics of Flying was offered. For the details of forthcoming camps you are referred to the XLAB website.

For the ISC in 2017, a modified concept is in the process of being developed:

  • Project Work Research in Aerodynamics

More details to both the project work and the course are given below.


  • The Lecturer

The course is held by Wolfgang Send, theoretical physicist in the field of aerodynamics and structural mechanics at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) until October 2009. Contributing to modern concepts for teaching aerodynamics in several publications, he has developed the course since 2003. He is committed to animal-flight research more than ever, and between 2009 and 2011 he developed with a small team an artificial bird based on his theoretical concept of active torsion with unprecedented agility (link leads to its flight performance, 1:48 min). A movie introduces to the SmartBird project ("Birdflight deciphered", 18 min; produced by the FESTO company's Bionic Learning Network which financed the project). Recently, his commitment to the aerodynamics of flapping wings led to the development of the energy harvester DualWingGenerator, which was presented 2014 on the occasion of the annual international industry fair "Hannovermesse", again within the framework of the FESTO company's Bionic Learning Network.


  • One Week Project Work Research in Aerodynamics - Tools and Skills


Tools and skills. The one week project work mainly deals with experimental techniques which are typical of aerodynamic research: measuring force and pressure with sensors, observing vibrations with accelerometers, acquiring measured data with modern data acquisition systems, also using wireless communication. Different measuring devices doing the same job are assessed with respect to their individual accuracy.
The control and operation of stepper-motors with micro-processors (for a defined motion) is touched to the extent which is required for the projects. Among others, two small wind tunnels, a rotor test stand and an air bearing for frictionless motion belong to the available devices. A model aircraft, a light-weight drone and a model wind turbine are involved in the project work. A simple control tool for setting the desired wind speed of one of wind tunnels is applied (using National Instruments' software LabView). A local area network (LAN) is established which connects all computers and micro-processors to each other.

Knowledge. The project week is enriched by short lectures on the Physics of Flying, Aerodynamics: A Part of Fluid Dynamics, Statistics of Data Series, a few words about Modern Transport Aircraft  and the Design of Large Wind Turbines.  

Depending on the number of participants and how well they are grounded in physics and maths, the precise definition of the projects will be settled at the beginning of the project week. The scope for experiments is not entirely different from that in the course except that there is much more time for in-depth work and practical training (e.g. no work on presentations).


  • The Course Physics of Flying - Competence and Knowledge


  • Here, a quick overview of the past courses is presented.

    Knowledge. The course covers the basic phenomena of flying in nature and of the foundations of aeronautical sciences. The key subjects are
    • the force balance of weight and lift and of drag and thrust, demonstrated by a wing model and by a model aeroplane,
    • the mechanism of propulsion in animal flight, shown by an artificial bird of almost one meter span in tethered flight, and
    • the notable flutter phenomenon of an airplane wing, in which - above a certain speed limit - power is extracted extremely fast from the surrounding air-stream, with the potential of destroying the airplane.
    The course introduces to basic skills performing measurements in Aerodynamics. Among others, it is composed of exercises with the test stand ANIPROP RL3 and its components (the link leads to a description of its scientific basis). During the last few years, a glossary was set out collecting a host of questions which were touched on. The XLAB_ISC_Glossary (0.8 MB) is kind of knowledge base for the next courses. Besides learning a few things about birds and planes, you will be challenged every day.

    Competence. The course trains you
    • to carry out various experiments with fluids (that's air and water),
    • to deal with laboratory equipment like power supplies, oscilloscopes and electronic data acquisition,
    • to evaluate acquired data and assess the results,
    • to work out short presentations every day on new subjects and on your measurements and observations, and
    • to give a presentation with a laptop or using flip charts: clear, concise and considerate to the audience.
    Last, but not least: To have fun with each other! Wolfgang Send is very much looking forward to guide you to the physics behind birds and planes.

    The course in 2015 gave me, the lecturer, unexpected pleasure. Being different from all preceding courses, the students asked me to put even more emphasis on the theoretical inserts and to hold an additional lecture on where the thrust of birds comes from. The result on the blackboard ist added at the end. That certainly will remain an exception. 

    • Fun - The course 2016:

      ... and the course 2012:

    • The Experiments

    The windtunnel ANIPROP KWK2 (since 2014 commercially available as ANIPROP KWK3) for the  measurement of drag and lift:




    The thrust experiment using an air bearing for frictionless motion of the flapping wings:




    The laboratory with the test stand RL3 carrying a lifting plate:



    The daily short lectures:



    ... and another example:



    The additional lecture in the 2015 course on where does the thrust of birds come from: