Union students win big in aero design competition

Left to right: Nate Billings ’17, Riley Konsella ’17, Brendan Cheevers ’17, Blair Hagen ’19, Kathleen Matthews ’17, Sam Kupiec ’19, Pilot Matt Carroll, Dan Chan ’16, Ryan Saeger ’16, Michael Russo ’16, Robbie McNally ’16, Meg Sequino ’16. Posing with their plane at the Aero Design competition in Van Nuys, Calif. (Riley Konsella | Concordiensis)

Union found success in the Aero Design Engineering competition hosted this past weekend by the Society of Automotive Engineers in Van Nuys, California. The Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments sent 11 students, split up into two teams competing in two separate classes of the competition. Each team designed and built a remote-controlled airplane, with the Micro Class having the additional challenge of sizing the plane to fit into a small cylinder when disassembled and the Advanced Class aiming to drop a sandbag on a target mid-flight.

This was Union’s first time competing in either category, spending the last 10 years at the competition in the Regular Class. Union did not send a team for the Regular Class this year.

Though this was a brand new challenge for both teams, each placed in the top ten of their respective classes at the international competition that featured 73 teams from across the world.

The Advanced Class, led by Captain Michael Russo ‘16 and team members Meg Sequino ‘16, Ryan Saeger ‘16, Dan Chan ‘16, and Robbie McNally ‘16, placed fifth among the challengers and were responsible for two of the competition’s four successful target drops.

The team dealt with the total loss of their aircraft after a nosedive crash in their first flight attempt on Saturday, but were able to rebuilt from a secondary plane and rebound on Sunday with two strong attempts. The Micro team also found themselves without a plane after round one when their plane veered off course and the pilot lost control. They too had prepared a backup and were able to recover in time for three more attempts, with one of the four being successful.

“We learned and gained a lot from this weekend, and are very proud of how we did after the

enormous amount of work we put in this year,” said Micro team Captain Kathleen Matthews ‘17. “We are super excited for next year to have the chance to be even more competitive in both classes.” Matthews was joined at competition by Nate Billings ‘17, Brendan Cheevers ‘17, Riley Konsella ‘17, Sam Kupiec ‘19, and Blair Hagen ‘19. The Micro team also had nine other underclassmen who contributed to the plane over the course of the year.

The teams were accompanied to competition by professors Jeremy Vanderhover and John Spinelli, with Professor Bradford Bruno also serving as an advisor.

The team had been experiencing significant growth over the past few years with the Aero

Club on campus reaching record involvement. This contributed to the decision to graduate to the Advanced Class for the first time this year and the addition of a Micro Class team for underclassmen to prepare for a larger plane in their later years at Union. The teams attribute their success to a strong support network on campus for the club and the enjoyment of a unique challenge for students. “I would like to thank the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Departments, Student Research and Travel Grants, and Student Activities for supporting the teams,” commented Russo. “There aren’t many other options for students to learn the communication, project management, teamwork, designing, manufacturing, and testing skills. I’m proud of the club for growing as much as it has.”

The club plans to send both Micro and Advanced teams to the same competition once again next year, with the six underclass members of this year’s competiton contingency leading the two teams.

The freshmen at competition acknoeledge their excitement to see Union grow into even greater success at the competition in their time at the school.

“I’m so proud of the growth we made as a micro team and the effort everyone put in this year,” said Kupiec. “I look forward to continuing on with the Aero club as we continue to grow and progress.


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