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spacer spacer spacer May 20, 1996

Engineering students to reenact historic flight with glider created as senior design project

Almost 100 years ago, aviation pioneer Octave Chanute þew his biplane glider off the high sand dunes along Miller Beach, Ind.—one of the Þrst recorded America flights. RIT mechanical engineering students designed and constructed a full-scale replica of Chanute's glider for their required Senior Design project. The Þve-member aerospace team will bring the glider to Miller Beach July 27 to reenact Chanute's þight on its 100th anniversary.

"We asked ourselves: if Octave Chanute were alive today, how would he go about building a hang glider?" says Peter Karpinski, team member. That thought in mind, the team used modern materials and analysis techniques to build a glider from the ground up.

The team built a stronger, safer and more maneuverable aircraft, using lighter materials like aluminum and carbon Þber. The original Chanute glider was built of wood and muslin.

"We could have made the plane even lighter and more aerodynamic, but we wanted to maintain the aesthetic and structural integrity of the original aircraft," says Karpinski, who will enter Virginia Tech's aerospace and ocean engineering master's program next fall.

The team analyzed all of the parts using the Algor Finite Element Stress Analysis software program and tested them for safety. The modern replica can bear a 400-lb. load, much higher than actual expected loads. The team achieved a safety factor of 4. "That means even if four times the normal forces are exerted in þight, the glider will not fail," says Dale Davis, team member.

"It's a strongly built aircraft," says Kevin Kochersberger, the team's adviser and visiting assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department. Kochersberger, a licensed glider pilot, will þy the replica craft at Miller Beach.

"The team members complemented each other well," he says. "Not only did they possess a complimentary set of skills and talent, they also had the interpersonal skills and perseverance to achieve this project." The project spanned three academic quarters and required students to work many late nights, he adds.

The National Soaring Museum in Elmira, N.Y., sponsored the RIT team to design and build it. Paul Dees, a colleague of Kochersberger's, will present the replica to the museum at a dedication ceremony in July.

According to Kochersberger, Chanute collected a signiÞcant amount of aerodynamic data after performing more than 700 successful glider þights. He willingly shared his information with the Wright brothers and other pioneers to help develop more advanced þying machines.

RIT's mechanical engineering Senior Design course challenges students to tackle real-world projects. Most students spend one quarter drafting the project design and the second building the prototype. Teams present their prototypes at course's end to their classmates, professors, sponsors and interested members of the RIT community.


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