Incredible feats of engineering exist all around us, but not in the places you may think. Birds, fish and other animals (past and present) are natural vehicles that David Rival studies in order to create better engineered technologies.
“We might use something we learn about how a bird flies in a completely different application, like how to design a wind turbine blade,” says Rival. “It’s a very specific idea that we can take from an animal and apply to a completely different problem.” Rival’s studies provide engineers with insight into the development of unmanned vehicles that perform underwater surveys, as well as similar vehicles for aerial surveys.
As a mechanical engineering professor, Rival teaches fluid mechanics at the University of Calgary and is researching the connection between nature and engineering.
Rival has published 30 scientific articles in leading international journals and works with a team of 16 undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral researchers exploring aerodynamics (air) and hydrodynamics (water). “The gaps between medicine and engineering, or biology and engineering, are the ones I really hope to delve into and expand on,” says Rival.
His ability to connect theory to real life has also made him a sought-after professor, receiving excellent student evaluations. “It’s nice to talk about examples with nature in my introductory fluid mechanics class. It really throws the students off because they don’t ever think of birds as a vehicle,” says Rival.
He is also the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) iCore Strategic Chair in wind-resource prediction and has raised almost $2 million in research funding and grants in the last three years to work on a variety of projects, including developing techniques to understand wind-turbine operation in gusty environments like southern Alberta. This knowledge will lead to better placement of wind turbines and increase the number of wind turbines operating efficiently in Alberta, reducing our greenhouse gas output.
“I’m just naturally curious. There’s something about that perpetual questioning that is really inspiring and makes life seem much more exciting,” says Rival.
3 Things About David Rival
- David Rival is an outdoor enthusiast, spending his spare time in the mountains cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing and camping.
- Rival did his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at TU Darmstadt in Germany, followed by his post-doctoral stay at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Rival is popular with his students and has received an average teaching evaluation score of 6.0 out of a possible 7.0.