TEES, TEEX, civil engineering create man-made F5 tornado for product testing

May 3, 2013
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Storm Resistant Systems (SR Systems LLC) of Linden, Ala., headed by CEO Scott Drummond and General Manager Steve Zimmerman, blew into College Station in April with a special request.

The company manufactures components designed to help structures withstand hurricanes and tornadoes, and wanted to test its products in an F5 tornado. But who could create a tornado on demand?

Enter the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service's (TEEX) Product Development Center (PDC) and its collaborators across The Texas A&M University System. After an initial meeting in January, SR Systems' Zimmerman explained to PDC Coordinator Caleb Holt that the company needed empirical, unbiased testing to validate its product.

In other words, SR Systems needed a tornado.

As part of an agency known for simulating huge fires, explosions and destroyed cities for training purposes, the request did not seem unusual. Before long -- through connections with Dr. Dean Schneider in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station's (TEES) Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT) and Dr. Peter Keating in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University -- plans for a man-made tornado were in the works.

The site was the TEES High Bay Structural and Materials Testing Laboratory on campus, where a tri-directional pressure test the equivalent of an F5 tornado was generated.

It's true, Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore, you're in College Station.

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