Drew McCalmont ’16, Riley Konsella ’17, Kathleen Matthews ’17, Matt Hacker ’17, Baahh Nazshonnii Brown-Almaweri ’17 and Joshua Park ’18 recently assembled a micro-aero plane that was showcased at the 25th Annual Steinmetz Symposium.
The team was organized by the College’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Club and advised by Mechanical Engineering Professor Brad Bruno. The SAE Aero Club has been operating for over ten years.
According to the treasurer of the club, Drew McCalmont, the plane is powered from a brushless electric motor, aided by several servo motors that control other critical components.
Over the winter and spring terms, the team assembled a radio-controlled Piper Cub model Micro Aero-plane from a kit.
By building it from a kit, the team already had a pre-engineered plane, with the exception of the electrical components.
Assembling the plane from the kit, however, was not without its own challenges.
Konsella explained that because the parts from the kit were tiny, there was no room for error.
Assembling tiny parts and gluing them together with CA Glue and epoxy proved especially difficult, due to the glue’s properties.
After a slow start, the team grew especially productive during the last month before Steinmetz.
Konsella described one of the difficulties faced during this time.
“Probably our single biggest challenge was the motor.” He added, “we used a completely different type of motor, but ours would not physically fit in the plane. The night before Steinmetz, we had to manufacture a new nose for the plane that would be compatible.”
McCalmont explained that he learned a lot building from the kit. For example, he said, “The balsa wood kits take much longer than foam ones.”
McCalmont added, “The advantage of doing such a complicated kit is that it has taught us the techniques necessary for us to build planes that meet the SAE Aero requirements.”
The team also benefitted under the mentorship of this year’s team that participated in the SAE Competition in Van Nuys, California.
Konsella explained, “By doing it under the wings of the team who went to competition this year better informed our design decisions and plane-building skills.”
For the past couple years, different teams from Union have designed model planes in preparation for the SAE Undergraduate Aero-Design Series Competition.
The competition helps embellish undergraduate engineering skills by offering students the chance to experience a real-world engineering challenge.
This year’s senior Micro-Aero Team placed relatively well in the competition.
The competition is graded based off of multiple components, including submitting a technical report, passing aninspection, giving an oral presentation and delivering a successful flight.
The parameters for the competition specified that planes must complete a takeoff in 90 seconds, complete one turn and then land within a designated 200 feet area, with no broken parts except propellers.
Further challenges have included building the plane in such a way that it could be compacted into a cylinder, six inches in diameter and to reassemble it quickly.
The advanced class involved assembling a regular-size SAE Aero plane with some added embellishments.
In the past, the SAE Club has only organized the competitions almost exclusively for seniors for their senior project.
Co-Captains, Brown-Almaweri and Matthews, wanted to change that.
Matthews explained, “By having a micro team in addition to the senior team, Union has more of a presence at the competition and opportunities for all grade levels.”
According to Matthews, the team’s Micro-Aero RC Plane project was intended only for practice.
Matthews said, “this project was created as a trial run to prove to Professor Bruno that there are underclassmen interested in being more involved in Aero, and who actually want to compete.”
The team was unable to participate in the SAE Micro- Class Competition this year, because they started the project relatively late, in the last weeks of the fall term.
According to Konsella, the team learned a lot from their practice plane and advises future teams to “get started early and build multiple prototype planes as much as possible.”
In gearing up next year, the team will have to manufacture a completely different type of plane eligible for competition.
The official rules for next year’s competition will be issued in August.
The Micro-Aero Team hopes to compete in one of two competitions next year in either Texas or California.
Next year’s team will consist of McCalmont, Konsella, Matthews, Brown-Almaweri, Brendan Cheevers ’17 and Nate Billings ’17.