West Virginia University engineering students have high hopes that the aircraft they designed and built will fly circles around the competition in the international Design Build Fly Competition this month.

Organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and sponsored by Cessna Aircraft and Raytheon Missile Systems, the 2008 competition will take place April 18 in Wichita, Kan.

Two teams of WVU aerospace engineering students spent the past semester designing and building two remote-control airplanes completely from scratch, said John Loth, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in WVU s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the teams adviser.

WVU has been participating in the competition since it began in 1996 and has maintained a record of placing in the top third among the university teams participating.

I believe we have two of the best teams WVU has ever put together going to the competition this year,Loth said.

Each year, student teams from around the world design, assemble and fly remote-control aircraft that meet specific design and mission goals of the competition. Groups also submit technical reports on their designs for review.

Judging is based on how well the planes perform in two flights, with separate goals and criteria, and on the technical reports.

In the first flight, the plane must be able to take off from a 75-foot runway and make as many laps as possible around the test area within five minutes,said Shanti Hamburg, a graduate student in aerospace engineering who works with the team.

In the second flight, planes are given payloads to add weight to the aircraft. The plane must then take off, circle the test area once and land successfully.

“Hands-on projects like this are at the core of a good engineering education,Loth said.We teach theories in class, but until students experience a real design challenge, they cant gain a solid understanding of what they are doing.

WVU s Design Build Fly team is sponsored by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, Alliant Techsystems Inc., Soller Composites, Brodak Hobbies, Hitec and SolidWorks.

To view a video of the WVU team testing its aircraft in a recent flight, visithttp://www.cemr.wvu.edu/news/Test-Flights2-and-3.wmv.

For more information, visit the teams Web site athttp://www.mae.wvu.edu/~dbf/index.htm.