Photo: Johnathan Bjerg Meller

Student planes ready for takeoff

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By Bob Sexton

A team of Ryerson engineering students hope to take of at an international competition this week.

The group of eight students are scheduled to leave Wednesday for Delane, Fla. to compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers aero design competition. The team whose remote-control airplane carries the heaviest payload wins.

Ken Bird, a second-year aerospace engineering student and co-captain of one of the entries, hopes his team’s two-kilogram plane will lift nearly 10 kilos.

Each plane has to carry  metal plate in a flight circle and come to a complete stop without overrunning a 120-metre runway.

Competitors have to predict the amount of weight their planes will carry before taking off. If the plane completes its cycle, the team can increase the payload and try for a better score.

“My prediction is somewhat conservative,” Bird said. “But deep down, I’d like to believe it can lift a little more than that.”

To ensure a level playing field, each team purchases a standard engine from SAE, then designs its own aircraft body.

Bird said his team has put a lot of time into the process, but the exposure is worth the effort.

“It is quite well known that the engineering students who participate in this event tend to be looked upon favorably by the industry,” he said.

Winning teams don’t come away with much prize money—first place wins about $1,000—but they do gain the respect of other schools and hopefully catch the eye of potential employers, said faculty advisor Paul Short.

The annual contest attracts engineering students from all over the eastern half of North America and parts of Europe. Ryerson has been sending teams since the early 1980s.

The aero design competition is just one of four events run by SAE. Ryerson also sends teams to homemade car races in late spring and early summer.

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