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2015 SAE Aero Design West Competition

The Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics senior design team - Gophers - took part in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Design West competition in Van Nuys California on April 24-26. The competition consisted of three different categories: Micro Class, Regular Class, and Advanced Class. The Gophers took part in the Micro Class category, where teams were required to design a light-weight, UAV-style aircraft that can be quickly deployed from a small package.

The Gophers team members included Cecilia Molina (team lead), Mohamed Aldhaheri, Caleb Carlson, Nick Engleken, Brian Erickson, Jordan Holmen, Tyler Jacobs, Minju Kim, and David Oberg. Danny Chryst, the team pilot, is an employee in the AEM UAV Laboratory. The team arrived in Van Nuys on Friday, April 24, where their first activity of the competition was to make a 10 minute presentation to a panel of aerospace industry experts on the details of their aircraft design and testing. One of the judges was so impressed with the Gopher’s design innovations, he asked if the team had considered selling their folding wing design to model airplane hobby enthusiasts. The next stage of the competition required the team to go through detailed technical inspection of their aircraft to verify it was consistent with their design documentation and that it was safe to fly in the competition on Saturday and Sunday. The Gophers passed the inspection with no issues.

On Saturday, the Gophers had three rounds of flight competition. In the first round, they successfully hand launched their aircraft with a 4lb15oz payload, flew around the oval flight course, and skid-landed successfully in the landing zone. On the second flight they, again, successfully launched the aircraft but had increased the payload to 6lbs1oz (the heaviest of any team in the Micro class). They had no problems flying around the course, but the skid landing did not go well. The third flight was again with a payload of 6lbs1oz and was completely successful. However, competition flying ended early because of threatening weather.

On Sunday there was only one round of flight competition. The team again flew a 6lb1oz payload, successfully launched the aircraft and flew the course, but again had a problem on landing. It was a windy day, and at touchdown, a big gust caught the aircraft and caused it to balloon back into the air. It bounced a couple of times on re-landing and came to a stop just 2 inches outside of the landing zone boundary. Unfortunately, by rule, any part of the airplane outside the boundary results in a disqualification for that flight.

In summary, the team flew four rounds of competition, and their plane flew very well all four times, but had two different issues on landing. As a result, their overall score put them in 7th place for the competition. At the awards ceremony the team was awarded a plaque by the SAE for placing 3rd in the written design report portion of the competition. Overall, the team had a great experience and were very satisfied to see that their design performed well in flight.

SAE Aero Design Team 2015
The team with their aircraft. From left to right: Minju Kim, Mohamed Aldhaheri, Nick Engelken, Caleb Carlson, Cecilia Molina, Brian Erickson, Jordan Holmen, Danny Chryst, Tyler Jacobs, and David Oberg.

Last Modified: 2015-05-01 at 14:42:48 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation