Student teams in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Introduction to Aerospace Engineering Design courses (otherwise known as Unified Engineering) recently tested their final projects -- blimps and airplanes -- in stirring indoor flight rivalries.
The freshman Lighter Than Air (LTA) Vehicle design competition required students working in teams of five or six to develop and build blimps, most of which resembled three large balloons connected side by side to bits of lightweight wooden scaffolding. Yesterday, the teams raced their blimps in Rockwell Cage and then allowed them to attack and destroy one other in the air. Prizes were awarded for heaviest payload carried, fastest time and largest payload-to-time ratio. Winners were announced by Professor Dava Newman, lead teacher for the systems design portion of the freshman course.
Sophomores in the design course held their final competition last Monday through Wednesday in the Johnson Center indoor track, racing the airplanes they designed and built. Teams had to fly the empty planes, take on a payload and carry that load to another location. Planes were rated using criteria similar to the freshman competition, with the additional requirement of minimizing ground time.
Boeing Assistant Professor Charles Coleman, lead teacher for the systems design portion of the sophomore course, said each team received $200 in parts and 12 weeks to design and build its vehicle. Seventy-two students divided into 14 teams of five contended in the final Unified Aerial Competition.
The overall winner was "Peter Pan and the AK," with sophomores Michael Anderberg, Jason Andrews, Kristin Jonker, Ian Garcia, Geeta Gupta and Melanie Woo. The winning team in the lightweight division was "Captain Hook and the Pirates of the Carribbean." Heavyweight division winners were the "Space Monkeys" and "The A Team." And "SALP" won the guest pilot division.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 16, 2001.