From his earliest memories, Sergey Vorontsov said he was always looking skyward — scanning the wide blue expanse above his home for airplanes. By age 6, he and his friends were making simple model planes.
The fascination with flight has only grown over time, leading the native of Ternopil, a city in Western Ukraine, to work in the aerospace industry after graduation, with distinction, from Bauman State Technical University in Moscow. Vorontsov was awarded the degree of engineer-researcher in aerospace engineering (a master's degree equivalent).
Even today, as a Ph.D. student in polymer engineering, Vorontsov carves out time between classes and lab experiments to be a member of UA's Society of Automotive Engineers Aero Design Team. The College of Engineering team, which is open to any major, builds light-weight, high payload carrying remote control airplanes and flies them in competitions with other collegiate teams.
Sergey Vorontsov, left, with Dr. Arkady Leonov, professor of polymer engineering, and Alan Bowdler, student trustee.
As much as he values the opportunity to pursue advanced work in rheology (the flow of matter), Vorontsov recently told members of the Board of Trustees during a presentation on his Akron Experience that he also values his time working on the airplane models. "The design team offers some of the best experiences for students — it gives them more practical knowledge that is applicable to real life."
And, as the 2013 team learned in April at the international competition in California, sometimes, that means working together to overcome adversity.
"Unfortunately, we had a small crash," Vorontsov told the Board with a rueful smile. The team's plane, the Thrust Master, hit a gopher hole after its second flawless flight — destroying the nose section and half of the fuselage. "The team stayed up all night to make repairs, and we were able to take second place overall."
Members of the 2013 Aero Design Team include Sergey Vorontsov, standing, fourth from left.
Vorontsov said he chose The University of Akron for the resources it offered to make his research successful, and for the opportunity to work with people he admired.
"The high ranking of the program was important, but not the deciding factor," explained Vorontsov. "It was the opportunity to learn from, and work with, Dr. Arkady Leonov in polymer engineering and other famous scientists."
After graduation in summer 2014, Vorontsov plans a career in industry, ideally in a position "on the border of research, design and management," he said. He also hopes to earn a private pilot's license. "Life is experiences, and the more you experience, the more fun you have."