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Students travel to Kansas for Design/Build/Fly Competition

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A group of Notre Dame engineering students travelled to Wichita, Kan., this past weekend to participate in the Cessna/Raytheon Missile Systems Student Design/Build/Fly Competition.

Senior captain Eliseo Miranda said the group began preparations in August to build a plane fit for competition according to this year’s guidelines. The team consisted of about 30 people, spanning mechanical, electrical and aerospace engineering, but he said only seven were able to travel to Wichita.

“The interesting thing about Design/Build/Fly for Notre Dame is that it is for no credit, it is a straight-up club,” Miranda said. “For other schools at the competition, they use it as their senior design project.

“That’s a big difference between us and other schools. [Design/Build/Fly] requires a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of time too, and I’m really impressed with Notre Dame students specifically because everyone puts in so much time and effort into the project just to see a plane fly.”

Despite all of their work, Miranda said the Notre Dame team encountered a few problems at the competition.

“The first day of the competition, we were having a lot of trouble flying, the reason being that they decided to limit the amount of current each plane could use,” he said. “[We], as a team, really wanted to push the amount of power we could get from our motor, but we were really close to the limit, so the first day of flying, we kept blowing the fuse.”

The problems continued the second day with high wind speeds reaching more than 30 miles per hour, Miranda said.

“You’re not recommended to go over 15 mile per hour winds to fly because the planes are so light,” he said. “I have never seen so many planes crash … however, we got in the air and did two laps in four minutes.”

These two laps put the team in 34th place, but prior to a second attempt, the wind flipped the plane and broke its tail, Miranda said. The team returned to the hotel and fixed the tail to prepare for the next day.

“Then the third day came and we knew it was crunch time,” he said. “We needed to get in two flights in order to get on the board. Going around and seeing everyone’s planes, we knew that we had a better plane, that we could beat them.”

Miranda said a thunderstorm then delayed the flights, so the Notre Dame team went to test their plane before their last flight.

“We started to fly and the wind picked up,” he said. “Everything went gray, 35 [mile per hour]-plus gusts, but we put it up anyway.

“The plane went up and started shaking because of the wind. We tried to control it … The pilot knew it was bad and tried to land it, but the plane nosedived into the ground. He almost pulled it out, but it just hit the ground and shattered.”

The team was upset, finishing in 42nd place out of 80 teams, but Miranda said they have already set their sights on next year.

“As a team, we realized that, even though we got unlucky with the wind and everything, we still did better than last year and we have a strong team for next year,” he said. “We have a bunch of juniors and sophomores that all know what they’re doing now. Notre Dame is a really new school in the competition, so we think that we really have a shot at doing extremely well next year.”

Contact Kayla Mullen at [email protected]


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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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