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Clarkson's Design, Build And Fly Team Returns From International Competition With Renewed Purpose And A New Vision

Clarkson University’s Design, Build & Fly Team competed against more than 44 other design teams from around the world in the annual Design, Build and Fly Competition held last month in Wichita, Kan.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Cessna Aircraft Company and the Office of Naval Research sponsor the competition, which challenges students interested in aeronautical design and construction to participate in a team effort to design and build a radio-controlled aircraft that meets a set of requirements and specifications as outlined by competition rules.

This is the third year Clarkson has participated in the event.  Despite a promising start to its initial run, the team’s radio-controlled aircraft developed problems in the final turn of its first two-lap run, and a bent motor shaft prevented the team from continuing on in the competition. Still, the team finished in 26th place, based on its initial flight and written reports, and the students returned home with their sights set on next year’s competition.

“The wild Wichita winds frustrated the team this year,” said Ken Visser, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and team faculty advisor. “The constant headwinds drained the batteries and the plane lost power and crashed. Unfortunately, the damage it sustained was not easily repaired.  The students were disappointed, but they spent a lot of time networking with other teams, discussing design and construction techniques. In the end, they came away with a lot of new ideas and genuine excitement and enthusiasm for next year.”

“Projects such as this offer an invaluable learning opportunity for our students to participate in group design to solve a problem with a non-unique solution,” added Visser. “The students appreciate the issues involved in integrating aspects of design and balancing the advantages and disadvantages of various design possibilities. They have to evaluate numerous aircraft configurations, taking into account items like wingspan dimensions, lift, drag, performance, propulsion and flight stability.”

The Design, Build and Fly team is part of Clarkson University's SPEED (Students Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program that promotes multidisciplinary project based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork and communication skills. SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, General Electric, and Procter & Gamble. SPEED was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award for its exceptional contribution to improving undergraduate engineering education.
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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