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AEM Senior Design Team participates in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Design West Competition

The AEM Senior Design Team, the Flying Gophers, participated in the SAE Aero Design West Competition on March 10-12, 2017,in Fort Worth, Texas. Nicolas Pardoe, from the Student Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was the test pilot for the team.

SAE Flying Gopher Student Team 2017
Flying Gopher Team members, Stephen Beck, Jason Adlam, Ben Garstecki,
Wilson Lau, Stephen Link, and Ilya Zubarev

The competition consisted of 75 different college teams from all over the world (Canada, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Poland, and the United States). The AEM Senior Design Team designed an aircraft for the Micro Class category of the competition. Their objective was to design a light-weight, UAV style aircraft that could be quickly deployed from a small package with a high payload ratio.

The three day competition consisted of the following activities:

  • A detailed technical inspection to verify consistency with the design
  • A presentation on the details of their design and testing
  • Six rounds of flight competition
Team Flying Gophers during the technical inspection

Throughout the competition, the team experienced multiple issues with their aircraft. The plane crashed a total of five times due to lateral/directional control issues, misconnected wires, and broken ribs on the tail. Despite these setbacks, the team continued to creatively re-build their aircraft while under tight time constraints. Their persistence paid off, and flight attempt number six was a complete success.

The Flying Gophers finished the competition in ninth place out of 24 teams. They had a great experience and learned a lot about real-time problem solving under significant time pressure. Great job, Gophers!

The SAE team received funding from the Boeing Corporation. We greatly appreciate the assistance.