Zips Aero Design team lands in 1st place, breaks own world record


Zips Aero Design Team

2015 Zips Aero Design Team

The University of Akron's Zips Aero design team once again earned the top prize at the 2015 SAE Aero Design West competition in Van Nuys, California April 24-26. The team finished 1st overall and set a new record for accuracy in the Advanced Class competition — breaking their own world record from 2014—and finished 3rd overall out of 41 teams competing in the Regular Class competition.

“We brought home seven awards this year,” says electrical engineering student and team co-captain Elizabeth Hammell. “Team morale is quite high!”

The object of the Advanced Class competition is to drop three-pound sandbags onto targets on the ground from 100 feet in the air. UA's Advanced Class plane, “Thunder,” features an on-board camera and sensors, which transmit data including airspeed and altitude to the ground station. In order to release the sandbag at the right moment, a co-pilot watches the camera and data and instructs the pilot when to drop the bag.

With a better camera and improved camera feed in tow this year, the team managed to hit 7’ 3” from the target, improving upon last year’s 7’11” record-setting drop. According to Hammell, the next closest team dropped a bag more than 20 feet from the target.

Mechanical engineering senior Evan Heinrich led the team in aircraft design, focusing on a brand new fuselage with aerodynamic fixtures to reduce drag as part of his senior design project.

“We made the wing much stronger this year,” says Heinrich. “Plus, it was designed to handle crosswind better. Our goal was to build a more stable, aerodynamic plane.”

In the Regular Class competition, the team was scored on their aircraft’s reliability, weight and payload, as well as a technical report and presentation to Lockheed Martin employees. The goal is to design and build a plane that can carry as much payload as possible, and also to be able to predict well what that payload will be.

Zips Aero is led by faculty adviser Dr. Greg Morscher, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.