Student Aero Design Team opens competition in Georgia

Team aircraft resumes competitions after three-year break

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Provided by Nathan Hardman

RIT Aero Team members had to make on-site repairs to the airplane at the recent SAE Aero Design competition in Georgia. The RIT team returned to competitions after a three-year break.

The RIT Aero Club team opened its 2011 season at the SAE Aero Design East competition April 29–May 1 in Marietta, Ga. The club, consisting of engineering, computer science and industrial design students, built a radio-controlled airplane to compete against teams from universities in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Poland and India.

The team is participating in today’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, displaying several of the competitive airplanes the team built, in its lab located on the first floor in the James E. Gleason Hall in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. Additionally, displays of larger airplane parts, videos of events and competitions as well as flight simulations will be available.

While the team did not take top placements in the Georgia event, it was an opportunity to get back into major competitions after a lengthy break, says Nathan Hardman, team project manager. The RIT Aero Club had not competed since 2008.

Competitors must complete a lengthy fly-over circuit with increasing payload weights. The team needed to make several repairs to the plane before its final flight. The motor mount of the plane ripped apart when the plane crashed on take-off, when it rolled two feet off the ground, Hardman explains.

“It was an enjoyable time though, and we learned a lot about how to improve for next year,” he adds. “We’re looking forward to competing again.”

Hardman, who was instrumental in getting the team prepared for the regional SAE Aero event, has been a member of the club since starting at RIT and served as its president for the last two years.

“Anyone can join the club, even with no experience building planes, and they can learn. I remember going to my first meeting of the club as a freshman with no experience and I just kept on going,” he says. The Tyndall, S.D., resident will graduate this month with a degree in mechanical engineering and looks to continue in the aerospace field.

He had several successful co-op experiences with the U.S. Navy, working on the next generation rail gun in Dahlgren, Va., testing instrumentation and collecting data for next generation rail guns on board.

“My experience working in the mechanical engineering field has been great,” he says. “I really look forward to my future endeavors after I graduate.”

The RIT team raised money to get to the competition through a series of fundraisers including teaching an elective class on building planes. Members of the club teach the one-credit course in the club’s design lab located in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. They provide three sections of the course that has become popular for those looking to fly the radio-controlled planes competitively or as a hobby.