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Clarkson's Design, Build & Fly Team Prepares For Take Off

The Clarkson University Design, Build and Fly team is one of 40 collegiate teams that will be flying a radio-controlled aircraft over Wichita, Kan. this weekend in the international Design, Build and Fly Competition.

This is the fifth year that Clarkson will be participating in the aeronautical design competition that challenges students to construct and demonstrate the flight capabilities of an electric-powered, radio-controlled aircraft. The aircraft must meet a set of design requirements and specifications as outlined by competition rules.

The competition is sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Cessna Aircraft Company, and the Office of Naval Research.

“This year, we had to follow strict guidelines to design and build a ‘Fire Bomber’ that will successfully drop water through a half-inch hole onto a target area to score points,” said Erin C. Davis, Clarkson junior and Design, Build and Fly student leader. “The aircraft will be loaded with water, take off, and dump a maximum of four liters of water during the downwind leg of the flight and then return to land. It will then repeat the flight sequence.”

By design requirements, the aircraft must be able to perform its tasks using store-bought, rechargeable batteries, fit neatly in a four-foot-by-two-foot-by-one-foot box, and weigh no more than 55 pounds.

Twenty Clarkson students are involved in this year’s team design.

"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," said Ken Visser, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and faculty advisor. "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 (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which 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. The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the “Vision of a Clarkson Education” through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems.

SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund, and Procter & Gamble. SPEED was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions 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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