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Wichita State News
Photo: Shae West
Members of Team Flight Machine inspect their airplane after it flipped over during take off.

AE seniors fly student-designed planes

Monday, April 26, 2010 | Share

Wichita State University aerospace engineering majors participated in the "Design, Validate, Compete" challenge Wednesday, April 21, at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex.

Scott Miller, aerospace engineering professor and chair, said the students are completing the two-semester capstone vehicle design course sequence, in which students are required to design a unique aircraft.

In the sequence, teams of five students begin developing their design in the first semester of their senior year. In the second semester, students build their design and attempt to fly the plane in "Design, Validate, Compete," or DVC, a departmental competition for seniors.

Typically, in most schools, the work is strictly theory and computational in character, Miller said. But some students have been able to build model planes, conduct wind tunnel tests and fly their designs.

Miller said learning increases dramatically when design students go beyond theory. Working as a team to build and fly an airplane has a significant impact.

Aerospace senior Bryan Kissack and his team, Team High Life, had trouble getting their plane to take off.

"Our plane is so small and our engine's got so much torque, it's difficult to get off the ground," Kissack said. "We're contemplating holding the tail, letting it rev and then letting it go."

Team Flight Machine had similar problems. The plane wouldn't get in the air.

But before the end of the semester, 10 student-built airplanes will be flying and competing in two separate competitions –DVC and "Design, Build, Fly," a national aerospace engineering competition.

Planes must use electric power, have a wingspan of three feet or less and carry at least two tennis balls, or simulated people.

The team's score will be calculated by an equation using factors, such as the number of tennis balls flown, creativity, take-off distance and best lap time.

For more information, contact Scott Miller, professor and chair, aerospace engineering at (316) 978-6334 or scott.miller@wichita.edu. 

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Created on Monday, April 26, 2010; Last modified on Monday, April 26, 2010