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(Last update: 9/23/2020)

Group photo of 2019 Bronze Propeller Competition participants.


2021 Competition

The WSU Aerospace Engineering department annually hosts an aircraft design competition.

The goal is to encourage involvement in a fun and educational activity. Competing teams design and build a small electric-powered aircraft to fly a challenging mission. Undergraduate winners get their names on the Bronze Propeller Trophy.

The eleventh annual Bronze Propeller competition will be in May 2021. 


 Once again, The Boeing Company is teaming with WSU to support the event!


There are three participant categories:

  • WSU Undergraduate (1st Place $2,500, 2nd Place $1,500, & 3rd Place $500)
  • High School (1st Place $1,000, 2nd Place $500, & 3rd Place $250)* 
  • Professional (1st Place $500)* 

    * Note: Prize money is not automatically awarded when there are a small number of entries in a certain category.

Teams with an alumni or graduate student member must participate in the professional category. High school or undergraduate teams cannot elect to compete in the professional category (unless team members scored in the top-three in a previous competition).

A successful design is well understood, properly developed, and well-built from the beginning. Don’t let someone create a better overall design. Use aerospace engineering principles and methods to win!

Proper engineering is not about trial and error or playing around until you discover something that works. Employ engineering concepts and design to win! Also, don’t undervalue the beauty of simplicity within all your efforts!

Don't be shy. Form a team, build a plane, and fly! Mentors for high school and undergraduate student teams are recommended. Contact Dr. Miller for help finding a mentor, to borrow critical airplane components, work in a lab, and to secure supplies.



This year's design competition is for “A Small Indoor Sensor Deployment Aircraft." Imagine a fire department using such a vehicle to deploy air sampling sensors within a large warehouse filled with potentially dangerous chemicals.

The competition goal is simple – design an aircraft to fly as many sensors as possible for at least 3-minutes.

The aircraft’s mission profile includes the following: 

  • Preflight & Launch (5-minute time limit to complete)
    • Prepare for flight
    • Takeoff
  • Fly within the indoor area for at least 3-minutes
  • Land successfully


All aircraft and participant categories must meet the following rules, requirements, and constraints:

  • The aircraft must be 100% conceived, designed, and built by team members
  • Teams are requested to register with contest organizers (see below)
  • The vehicle must be fixed-wing airplane (no rotorcraft, lighter-than-air, etc.)
  • The plane’s propulsion system is limited to using a single LiPo 200 mAh or smaller battery pack
  • Battery packs cannot be modified (only wire connectors can be changed)
  • Only a WSU designated test pilot will fly the plane

  • The sensor payload is simulated using unmodified pennies ($0.01)
  • All aircraft components must remain attached during flight
  • Mission scores are not counted for aircraft sustaining significant flight damage
  • Aircraft can be repaired and flown again, as long as all rules are satisfied
  • Use of more that 2-inches of tape to secure or cover anything is prohibited
  • All critical systems/components/payloads must be firmly mounted and accessible for quick repair, replacement, or installation (e.g., less than 2-min)
  • The aircraft can use a maximum of 2-servos and a single ESC (no more)
  • Aircraft changes, during the competition, that deviate significantly from the initial design configuration are not permitted
  • Be sure to review all web page sections regularly, especially the Q&A’s
  • All rules, requirements, constraints, and award related aspects are subject to interpretation and change, at anytime, by Dr. Miller

In a worst-case scenario (e.g., COVID-19 shutdown) teams are expected to complete verifiable vehicle construction and flight demonstrations off-campus and on their own (details will be supplied if needed)


Competition Day, Location, Flight Order, Preflight, & Drop Zone

The competition is tentatively planned for a Saturday in May, 2021, from 11am to 4pm. A location will be announced in the spring. Planes are expected to fly within an indoor basketball court sized area.

To assure fairness and a good pace of flying, a rotating pre- and flight order will be used during the competition. In summary, team numbers will be called sequentially at roughly 10-min intervals. It will be each team’s responsibility to monitor the rotation and to respond immediately when it’s their turn.

A team may elect to pass (i.e., scratch) on their opportunity, but this must be done quickly and before starting preflight to avoid a penalty (strike). Teams that scratch have to wait a full rotation for their number to be called again.

Teams entering preflight have 5-minutes to ready their plane and takeoff. Exceeding the 5-minute time limit results in a penalty (i.e., at least a strike, maybe more).


Scoring Equations

Teams will likely have multiple flight opportunities during the competition. A mission score (MSCR) is calculated, when successful, as follows:

            MSCR = NP

Where NP is simply as the number of pennies (i.e., simulated sensors) carried.

A successful mission requires the plane to remain airborne, without touching the ground, for at least 3-minutes (180-seconds). The mission time starts the moment the plane is in the air and ends if or when the plane touches the ground. The value is rounded to the nearest second.

The final team competition score is calculated as follows:


Where, MAX(MSCR) is the team’s best mission score and K is the number of outs received by the team during the competition,

The team with the highest TSCR wins in their competition category!


Strikes and Outs

A strike is given if:

  • A team fails to complete preflight and fly within a 5-minute window
  • The plane fails to remain airborne for at least 3-minutes
  • The plane leaves the designated flying area
  • A team, in any way, significant delays the competition

 Assessment of a strike also terminates a mission attempt and the award of a score.

As in baseball, three strikes yield an out (K). There are no fractional values for outs (e.g., two strikes equal zero outs).

Be certain your plane is 100% ready to fly before you enter preflight. The team can scratch or abort a flight attempt before entering preflight without a strike penalty. A flight abort (or scratch) after entering preflight results in a strike.

It’s critical to respect competitor plans to fly multiple times during the event. Teams that significantly waste time will receive strikes or in severe cases disqualification.

Obviously, you should avoid receiving outs at all cost. A good team effectively utilizes engineering principles, sound design methods, good construction techniques, and preparation to achieve mission success.



The sad reality is that crashes happen. However, keep in mind that many teams can quickly repair and fly their planes again. Never give up!

Teams that suffer a crash will not be assessed a strike unless they unduly delay the competition (e.g., take too long to recover their plane from the flying area). In some cases, teams may be required to wait to recover their crashed aircraft, for safety or other reasons.

Landing crashes are very common. In such a case, a mission score will not be recorded unless the damage is minor. In this case, minor means the plane can be repaired to a flight ready state in less than 10-min.


Battery Packs

All competitors are required to use an unmodified commercially available LiPo battery pack for propulsion. Connectors can be changed, but nothing else.

A spare propulsion battery pack is allowed, but only one pack can power the plane in flight. A spare pack simply allows you to fly again while the other battery is charging.

Keep in mind that battery suppliers typically advertise performance for less than realistic conditions. Watch this site for available WSU battery pack test data. The data might prove useful during design, as you work to meet vehicle and mission performance goals. 


Competition Registration

Teams are requested to register for the competition. The process is easy, simply complete the attached form (click here) and email it to Dr. Miller (click here).

The intent of registration is to establish communications, to identify a likely number of participants, and to better assist off-campus participants (allocate mentors, etc.).

Please register as soon as possible. The registration deadline is April 1st (no joke).

Although we really want you to compete, there is no commitment associated with registering.


Department Support
 & Mentors

The planes are relatively inexpensive to build. Some teams may be eligible for limited AE department assistance to help build their plane (e.g., loaning motors, RX, ESC, servos, laser/foam cutting, etc.). However, support must be requested, prearranged, and approved at least 6-weeks before the competition.

Additionally, as mentioned, the department will do what it can to provide mentors to help less experienced teams. Contact Dr. Miller for further information on support and mentor opportunities.

WSU support is contingent on the viability of the team’s participation and the availability of components and mentors. Be sure to work with the AE department in a timely and organized fashion. Dr. Miller may request additional information from interested participants to make sure resources are allocated with the highest educational impact possible.


Competition Results

Preliminary results might be announced at the end of the competition day. However, if presented, the preliminary results are preliminary (not final). Final results are posted on the competition web page after a careful review of scoring, videos, etc.


Eligible WSU students, especially seniors, might be able to earn “Engineering+” service-learning credit serving as a mentor to underclassmen or high school teams. These opportunities must be prearranged. Contact Dr. Miller or Angela Blackerby (click here) for further information.



Visit this section regularly for official Questions and Answers (Q&A’s) thatcan have an impact on your design efforts.

Q1: Can an additional non-propulsion battery be included in our plane for other systems?
A1: No, all aircraft systems must operate via a single 200mAh, or smaller, battery.

Q2: Can the payload be sealed in the plane before pre-flight?
A2: The pennies can be installed in the plane before or during pre-flight. However, the number of pennies flown must be easily, quickly, and accurately identified by competition officials during pre-flight. The time needed to record the payload (NP) is included in the team's pre-flight and launch 5-minute time limit.

Q3: Is the competition flying location known - we need to understand what the exact flying bounaries are?
A3: The exact flying location has not yet be set. We might use the courts in the Heskett Center. They have nets around each court, that form a physical boundary. Regardless of the location, significant departures from the basketball court sidelines will be deemed a violation. Your vehicle must be able to maneuver safely within court boundaries.

Q4: Can the pennies also be used as landing gear?
A4: No, the pennies are the payload.



Remember to check this area regularly! Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions -


Special Thanks

Special thanks go to WSU alumni and friends who provide ideas and suggestions for the competition. Obviously, also, we are extremely appreciative of TheBoeing Company’s support. Their investment in young engineers is important and most welcome!


Additional Information

Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions -

Here is a Bronze Propeller competition flyer you can print, post, and share (click here).             


"What I cannot build, I cannot understand" - Feynman 


Visit this page often - don't miss important competition information, Q&A's, and news!  





Just for reference, the sections below describe the 2019 results. Unfortunately, the 2020 competition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Information from the 2019 Event

The 2019 Boeing/WSU Aerospace Engineering Bronze Propeller Competition is history!  May 11th 2019 was an amazing day with near perfect weather. The mission, once again, proved challenging. Here is a final summary of results.


First Place - WSU Team 3 with 4.59 points

Second Place – WSU Team 21 with 2.73 points

Third Place – WSU Team 5 with 1.21 points

WSU Undergraduate:

First Place - Team 3 with 4.59 points

Second Place – Team 21 with 2.73 points

Third Place – Team 5 with 1.21 points

High School:

First Place - Team 20 with 0.57 points




A photo of the winning team and plane.

First Place Overall – Team 3
Joshua Lynn, Yau Chan, Jack Watson, & Austin Hunt



A photo of the second place team and airplane.

Second Place – Team 21
Abbas Qamar, Jeffrey Briggs, Chris Trevino, Kyle Wetter, & Yasaman (Jasmine) Taheri



A photo of the third place team and airplane.

Third Place – Team 5
Samadini Arachchilage, Rameesha Wijerathne, Virajitha Ethige, & Chimuka Cheepa



Photo of First Place High School team and mentor.

First Place High School – Team 20
Mathew Moses & WSU mentor Joseph Moses



Special mention goes to the underclassmen of Team 12. They made a competitive aircraft that flew nicely and had lots of potential. (Unfortunately, the plane suffered an inflight structural failure on it's second flight. With a little more academic and engineering experience, I’m certain their next plane will be fine.)

Photo of special mention team and plane.

Special Mention – Team 12
Spencer Lueckenotto, John Randall, & William Valentine



Photo of competition pilot.

Jonathan Mowrey - An amazing pilot and Shocker friend!


Photo of the first flight of the event.

A special moment in time - Team 11 takes to the air for the first time in 2019.


Additional Information

Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions -