AEM Students Perform Well at
SAE Aero Design
After months spent toiling over their micro aircraft, AEM's two student teams took first and fourth place in the micro class division of the SAE Aero Design East competition in Atlanta, Georgia during the weekend of April 11 - 13.
The competition consisted of three scored trials: writing a 30 page technical report highlighting the aircraft's design, presenting the aircraft during a 10 minute presentation for a team of judges, and designing and building an aircraft to meet requirements and fly a set course. The challenge of the competition was making concessions between carrying the highest payload fraction possible while simultaneously pursuing the lowest empty weight possible -- two potentially conflicting aircraft design requirements.
Both teams performed extremely well. Team Micro Fortress received second place in the design report competition and successfully flew three of their five flights, placing fourth of twenty teams in the micro class competition. The second team, VULCAN, successfully flew four of their five flights, with weights up to 14.3 pounds, and placed first in both the overall competition and the highest total payload challenge.
"Classes do an excellent job preparing students for technical aspects found in the work place, while projects like this confront students with real world issues that can't be anticipated, forcing them to overcome these problems with creative solutions to achieve success," says Luke Scharber, team lead for VULCAN. "High-risk, high-reward scenarios can be mitigated to just high-reward with hard work and testing."
This year, the teams had the choice of launching their aircraft by hand or by use of an engineered launching system with elastic bands; both teams chose to launch by hand. The aircraft were then required to fly a specific course with two turns of approximately 180 degrees, and land in a 200-ft landing zone without significant damage. Additional challenges included fitting the planes into a 24x18x8-inch box and assembling it in three minutes or less by two people.
"We have been refining our designs since fall semester and have learned a lot about working technically and in teams," says Ryan Carlson, team lead for Micro Fortress. "Our teams were pleasantly surprised to learn that the University of Minnesota has a tremendous reputation at this competition and were pleased to continue the tradition of presenting quality aircraft designs."
Established in 1986, the competition exposes undergraduate and graduate students to everyday engineering challenges and situations faced in the work place. As a part of Professor Garrard's senior design class, both teams were challenged to design, build and test a radio controlled plane, while adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by SAE International.
"The students put tremendous effort into their projects," explained AEM Professor William Garrard. "I am really proud of both teams. The students worked hard both semesters to perfect their designs and were able to flight test their airplanes and make final modifications before the competition. This year we instituted some project management improvements which really made a huge difference in building a flyable aircraft from a theoretical design. Early in the term, each group had to present a detailed, part by part Build Readiness Review of their design to Brian Taylor, John Weyrauch, and me. Once the aircraft were built we had a Flight Readiness Reviews in which we examined the built airplanes and made suggestions on improvements which vastly improved the airworthiness of the final product. Brian, with his extensive experience in model airplanes, was invaluable in this part of the process. But final success was due to the dedication and hard work of the students."
Special thanks is extended to Professor Garrard, Industrial Professor of Design John Weyrauch, Research Specialist Coordinator and AEM UAV Lab Director Brian Taylor, and Undergraduate Research Assistant Dain Chryst for their mentorship and help throughout the process.