A team of mechanical and aerospace engineering students at West Virginia University is competing in Design, Build, Flyan international competition sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The students will travel to Arizona for the April 19 competition.

The contest challenges students from several universities around the world to design, build and demonstrate the flight capabilities of an unmanned, electric-powered, radio-controlled aircraft, following specific mission criteria.

John Loth, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has been teaching the Design, Build, Fly class at WVU for the past 10 years.

What is most interesting about this class is the growth in skill, leadership and confidence that students gain from the experience,Loth said.My duties are restricted to making sure their designs are aerodynamically, structurally and performance optimized.

After that, the less I interfere, the more leadership and confidence the students gain and the more they enjoy their hard work. It heightens their interest in engineering and in leadership.

In between classes, projects and exams, the WVU students involved in Design, Build, Fly are busy making last-minute changes to airplanes they designed and built for the competition.

Shanti Hamburg, a WVU senior from Braxton County and this years teaching assistant, has been involved in the project for the past four years.

Design, Build, Fly has been one of the most rewarding experiences Ive had at WVU ,said Hamburg, who will graduate from WVU with a bachelors degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in May.

It puts all of the math and science in our engineering courses to practical use. We are learning to solve the very real problems that arise when you are designing and building something from the ground up, especially something that must meet specific criteria and perform according to specific standards.

I have learned a great deal from managing the project, working with all of the students to complete the necessary components of the aircraft correctly and on time.

The aircraft the students are designing resemble large model airplanes but do not use off-the-shelf model airplane parts. The students must design and fabricate all of the aircraft parts themselves and assemble the planes.

The aircraft must meet certain mission criteria, which vary from year to year. This years mission involves designing an aircraft that is made to carry air-sampling and camera systems, like those used in military or search-and-rescue missions.

This year the WVU team designed and built two airplanesa biplane with a 40-inch wingspan and a monoplane with a 50-inch wingspan. Their designs have already been flight tested and will be tested again before the competition.

The aircraft are judged on several criteria, including weight and flight time. The team must also complete a technical report, which forms the basis for part of their overall score.

Overall, the winner will be the team judged to complete the mission with the best performance at the lowest cost,Hamburg said.

Student team members and their hometowns are as follows:

Joe Allen, Hurricane; Joshua Barnett, Marlton, N.J.; Christopher Gee, Centreville, Va.; Curtis Groves, Wheeling; Steven Hard, Point Marion, Pa.; Frank Malone, Morgantown; Matthew Muscavitch, Rices Landing, Pa.; Nathan Music, Wardensville; Jonathan Nagurney, Warren, Pa.; Zachary Napolillo, Rivesville; Chad Panther, Oakland, Md.; Matthew Riggleman, Moorefield; Marissa Schott, Pennsauken, N.J.; Daniel Schulman, Annapolis, Md.; Patrick Smith, Kearneysville; Joseph Strogus, Phoenixville, Pa.; Daniel Sutton, Finksburg, Md.; William Vogel, Parkersburg; William Warren, Keyser; Patrick Wildfire, Minnora; Tristan Wolfe, Morgantown.

Sponsors of the AIAA competition include Cessna Aircraft and Raytheon Missile Systems.

The WVU Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium have provided financial support for the teams project and travel expenses. Other contributors include the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Flexible Manufacturing, Aurora Flight Systems and Wilson Works.

For more information, contact Loth at 304-293-4111, ext. 2343.