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Aerospace students claim additional honors in aircraft design competitions

Monday, November 03, 2014

LAWRENCE — More than a dozen students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering claimed top honors in two international aircraft design competitions. Teams from KU placed first and tied for third in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Undergraduate Aircraft Team Design Competition. A group of Jayhawks also earned second place in the AIAA Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition.

Brandon Basgall, 2014 aerospace engineering graduate, led the undergraduate team that took first place. The six-student team was tasked with designing a more efficient and cost-effective turbo-prop powered passenger aircraft.

“We focused on making the aerodynamics more efficient. We stretched the wings to make them larger and longer than normal,” Basgall said. “We also put attachments, known as ducts, around the propellers, which provides an aerodynamic efficiency boost.”

Their design also focused on improving the flying experience for the passenger.

“Propeller planes are much louder on the inside, and those ducts actually help reduce noise,” Basgall said. “Plus, the duct obscures the view of the fast spinning propellers, which some passengers find unsettling.”

The five-member Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition challenged teams to design a supersonic multi-utility technology test bed. The team’s design will allow NASA to test the limits of supersonic flight in situations that could easily cause normal aircraft to break apart. This class of aircraft pushes the envelope to determine just how light an aircraft structure can be made and still remain intact.

The KU teams in both competitions were advised by Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering.

These honors extend KU’s mark of excellence in AIAA design competitions. KU has earned more first- and second-place awards than any other academic institution in the world in the 47-year history of the competition. That includes a total of five team and individual awards this year.

“We have such a great legacy of success in these competitions, and that’s a testament to the aerospace faculty. All faculty members are willing to help. It’s a true asset to have great access to great minds,” Basgall said.

First-place undergraduate team: Brandon Basgall, Grinnell; Katie Constant, Roeland Park; Alejandra Escalera – La Paz, Bolivia;  Eleazar Lachino, East Moline, Illinois; Adrian Lee, Penang, Malaysia, and Emily Thompson, Coeur D Alene, Idaho.


Third-place (tie) undergraduate team: Ryan Evans, Gardner; Luiz Toledo – Bluffton, South Carolina; Nathan Smith, Lawrence; Ryan Su – Riverside, California, and Yinglong Xu, Overland Park.


Second-place graduate team: Richard Bramlette, Little Rock, Arkansas; Katie Constant, Roeland Park; Adam D’Silva, Lawrence; Julian McCafferty, Lawrence, and James Sellers, Benton. 

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