UA engineering students won’t settle for second best in aero design competition


UA’s Advanced class plane drops three-pound sandbags from 100 feet high in test flight.

Members of UA’s Zips Aero team will travel to Marietta, Georgia this weekend to compete against 74 other schools in the international SAE Aero Design East competition.

Immediately after placing second overall last April in the international SAE Aero Design Regular Class competition, members of The University of Akron’s Zips Aero team began planning for this year’s competition.

With aircraft in both the Advanced Class and Regular Class competitions, team co-captains and senior engineering students Ian Maatz and Devin Cross knew they had to get busy. Fortunately, they lead an enthusiastic team of engineering students who are up for a challenge.

“This is the most passionate group of students I’ve seen,” says Maatz, who has played a role on the team for the last five years. “We love what we do, and so we spend the summer, weekends, and even winter break working to design and build the planes that we can be proud of.”

The object of the Advanced Class competition is to drop three-pound sandbags onto targets on the ground from 100 feet in the air. The use of sensors on the aircraft adds a new complexity to the competition for the otherwise experienced team.

The Advanced Class plane, “B-50 Roo,” 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.

In the Regular Class competition, the team will be scored on their aircraft’s reliability, weight and payload, as well as a technical report and presentation to Lockheed Martin employees. To 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.

The team has much experience designing and building aircraft for the Regular Class competition. The objective this year was to take advantage of the solid model they’ve developed over the years and work to make it as light, strong and simple as possible, according to Maatz.

The Zips Aero team has nearly 30 members and will travel to Marietta, Georgia this weekend to compete against 74 teams from all over the world in the annual SAE Aero Design East competition.

About the SAE Aero Design competition

The SAE Aero Design competition is intended to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with a real-life engineering challenge. The competition has been designed to provide exposure to the kinds of situations that engineers face in their real-life work environment. First and foremost a design competition, students will find themselves performing trade studies and making compromises to arrive at a design solution that will optimally meet the mission requirements while still conforming to the configuration limitations.