Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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AEM students win big at SAE Aero Design Competition

SAE teams

Both teams after competition. From left to right: Brandon Carey, Evan Hiner, Arion Mangio, Matt Steere, Kurt Rahkola, Nick LePage, Philip Weber, Alex Schreiner, Jeeyun Bang, Mai Lee, Nick Giannetti, Rob Ritchie, Logan Fees, and their faculty adviser Dr. William Garrard.

Two teams of AEM seniors took first and third place in the Micro Class Competition at the SAE Aero Design Competition West, held in Van Nuys, California, from March 15-18, 2012.  The teams also scored first and second in payload fraction (actually the teams tied for first) and also in total weight lifted.  One team scored third place on the quality of their technical report.

The event focuses on developing young engineers’ skills by challenging them to design, build and test a radio controlled plane and adhere to the rules and regulations put forth by SAE International. The competition involved designing, building and flying a micro aircraft which will would carry the heaviest possible payload. The aircraft was required to fly a specific course with two turns of approximately 180 degrees and land in a 200-ft landing zone without significant damage. The aircraft had to fit into a 24x16x8 inch box and had be assembled from the box in 3 minutes or less by two people. The competition has been designed to provide exposure to real world situations that engineers face in their everyday work environment.

This year either a hand or catapult launch was required. Both AEM teams chose to hand launch their airplanes. Scoring is based on a formula which is heavily weighted in terms of payload fraction and a very light-weight aircraft with electric propulsion is required.  This makes flight in windy conditions such as were encountered on the first day of the competition problematic at best. The planes designed by both teams differ substantially, but there was a real spirit of cooperation between the two teams and our student pilot successfully flew both of the University of Minnesota aircraft under some very difficult conditions.  

“At the competition, the first day was rough, with winds gusting to 30mph and driving rain and flash flood warnings on the airfield we were to fly on.  Morning flights were postponed, and the rain cleared up enough in the afternoon to fly one round for each class. We were one of five teams with a successful flight in the windy conditions, which we were very excited about, and set us up with a reliability advantage going into the second day of flying.” said Evan Hiner, the team lead for Team Load Factor. “Arion Mangio [our student pilot] did a marvelous job flying our airplane, and his skills were a large factor in our success in the adverse conditions we saw on Saturday, and he deserves much credit for our overall success, as poor piloting could have cost us in any of the flight rounds.”

Team Load factor was able to fly with a 2.5lb payload and an empty weight of 0.5lb, and was the only team with 100 percent operational availability.

The students have been refining their designs since fall semester when they began the process as part of the senior design course, and have learned a lot both technically and in working as an integrated team. Traditionally our AEM students have done well in this competition and we plan on being back with a strong effort next year.

See videos of Team Load Factor’s three flight rounds here:

Team Load Factor

Team Load Factor with their plane. From left to right: Dr. William Garrard, Nick Giannetti, Evan Hiner (team lead), Kurt Rahkola, Nick LePage, Philip Weber, Brandon Carey, and Matt Steere.

Team Gopher Works

Team Gopher Works with their plane. From left to right: Dr. William Garrard, Alex Schreiner, Rob Ritchie (team lead), Mai Lee, Jeeyun Bang, Logan Fees, and Arion Mangio (student pilot).

Last Modified: Tuesday, 27-Mar-2012 12:35:32 CDT -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation