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Students Fly to New Heights in National Design-Build-Fly Competition

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Accomplishing Goals: This year's Design/Build/Fly Team had its best-ever 13th-place finish in the national competition of 80 teams from throughout the world. (Photo courtesy of Zach Ernst)

Rose-Hulman students designed, built, and flew a custom model airplane that soared to new heights with a best-ever 13th place finish in this year's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics competition.

Cessna/Raytheon Missile Systems' Student Design/Build/Fly challenge provides a real-world aircraft design experience for engineering students. Eighty college teams from throughout the world participated in this year's event at Cessna Aircraft Company's Pawnee East Field in Wichita, Kansas.

Rose-Hulman's electric-powered, radio-controlled aircraft was constructed by five mechanical engineering students as part of a senior-year capstone design course. The plane had to take off, land, and fly in rough conditions (with gusting crosswinds), complete laps around a 2,500-foot-long course, carry a payload for a cargo mission, and then complete a simulated rescue mission.

The goal was for the team to have a balanced design possessing good demonstrated flight handling qualities and practical and affordable manufacturing requirements, while providing high vehicle performance.

"We designed a plane that could compete and be sustainable while completing all of the required missions," says team member Richard Neal.

Rose-Hulman's aircraft had a 4½-foot span, was 3½ feet long, and weighed 4.2 pounds without cargo.

"We started early, tested frequently, and made sure we had everything ready for the competition," states team member Craig Godbey. "We were determined to achieve the best performance possible."

Other design team members were Zach Ernst, Kristin Uuk, and Joshua Yoder. Sophomore mechanical engineering students Mike Cirocco, Kane Weinberg, and Nick Wilkowski also helped the team during the competition. Providing radio-control pilot expertise was Tyler Collins, a graduating senior from Indiana State University. The team's faculty advisor is Calvin Lui, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The Design/Build/Fly Team is part of Rose-Hulman's program that provides student experiences in advanced transportation systems.