Design, Build, Fly Team Takes Off

On April 14, the newly founded Design, Build, Fly team traveled to Wichita, Kansas to compete at the national Design, Build, Fly competition. Design, Build, Fly, which is sponsored by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), is a competition that challenges students to design, fabricate, and demonstrate the flight capabilities of a radio-controlled aircraft that meets a specific mission profile. Going into the last day of competition, Colorado School of Mines was ranked in 6th place. The Mines’ team ended the competition in 19th place out of 82 teams.

“It’s incredible how well we did. Beating out all the other Colorado Schools, beating out MIT, Purdue, UC Berkeley, all these schools have very strong aerospace programs,” Senior Dominic Pena remarked on the experience. “And to do this all with no advising, no aerospace program, very minimal funding is a huge accomplishment.”

The competition was comprised of two major stages. The first was a written report to limit the number of teams allowed to attend the event.

“We received 17th place on our report scores out of the initial 160 teams,” Freshman Ryan Friedman commented on the written reports. The second stage consisted of various tests to challenge the plane’s flight ability.

Friedman, the team’s pilot, explained, “You had to make two planes, and one plane had to fit inside the other. Also, the small plane had to carry a two pound Gatorade bottle.” The planes were tested by their ability to complete a set number of laps without recharging their batteries and in challenging wind conditions.

During construction the newly established team experienced several difficulties.

“One of the major problems we had this year was a lack of experience,” Friedman said. “Some of us had hobby experience but we were completely by ourselves trying to figure out the aerodynamics.”

“We did a ton of test flights and we were constantly tweaking it to get better results,” continued Friedman. Despite their lack of experience, the team’s consistent modifying of the model resulted in a highly functioning final design.

Dominic Pena and Sam Drescher, President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) founded the club when they met over the summer.

“Look I’m part of AIAA, you’re part of ASME. Lets do a joint project, let’s get both of our memberships involved,” remembered Pena. “As a senior and project manager, I’m more than happy to see the results and know that the team will be moving on next year.”

“At the very first informational meeting we had 80 people if not more, standing room only in a Marquez classroom. A lot, a lot of interest,” Pena stated. “From there we nailed it down to 18 dedicated members who consistently showed up as much as they could.”

Next year the team looks forward to competing in the Design, Build, Fly competition and the possibility of creating another team to compete at other collegiate flight competitions.

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