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Two senior design teams in top three


Debra Levey Larson

Senior design is a two-semester course that is looked at as a kind of right-of-passage class for students in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  It usually becomes a course that holds memories years later of both the successes and failures they encountered during the year.

After completing the project in class, the teams enter it into the 2018-19 AIAA Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition.

Taken from the AIAA website, this past year’s competition stated the objective was to design a domestic transport aircraft for “thin haul” scheduled or on-demand operations servicing small airports and short routes. Special consideration should be given to vehicle aspects, such as boarding and egress that improve the passenger experience and ease the adoption barriers to travel in small aircraft. Although designs could consider additional markets such as personal ownership, EMS, and/or logistics/cargo, the primary objective was to develop a platform with low direct operating costs and that maximizes profits for operators when compared against alternatives such as the Piper PA-46, Cirrus SR22, and similar.

Two of the aircraft senior design teams will be able to look back on their final project as award winning. 

This year, Team Iota took second place and Team Eta placed third—this, out of about 20 projects submitted to the competition. The final reports they submit for judging were each just shy of 100 pages in length, written as a team with distinct areas of expertise. 

Artist's conception of the Iota Air Mark 2 aircraft.
Artist's conception of the Iota Air Mark 2 aircraft.
Team Iota presented their final design as “IA Mark 2.” Its members included: Joshua Simons, Kyle Nixon, Shengchao Wang, Melanie Cui, Austin Zhang, Jamie Fredrick, and Michael Danendra.

Each Team Iota member had a major and minor assignment.

Simons acted as team lead and looked at cost. Nixon was responsible for structures and loads, with a minor emphasis on avionics. Wang’s primary area was performance. His secondary area wad interior design. Cui worked on mass properties systems, but also dealt with certification. Aerodynamics was Zhang’s primary focus, with acoustics second. Frederick studied propulsion, and configuration. Danendra was in charge of stability and control systems as well as landing gear.

Artist's conception of Team Eta's aircraft called, The SEAL: A thin haul transport and air taxi.
Artist's conception of Team Eta's aircraft called, The SEAL: A thin haul transport and air taxi.
Team Eta called their design “The Seal: A Thin Haul Transport and Air Taxi.” The team members included: Emil Broemmelsiek, Andrew Burke, Matthew Hogan, Adam Maris, Nicholas Martin, Aakanksha Notey, and Allen Wong.

Wong was the team’s leader. His responsibilities were also in mass properties and configurations. Broemmelsiek was in charge of propulsion and certification. Burke handled structures and interior. Hogan looked at stability, control, and cost. Aerodynamics and acoustics were Maris’ areas of expertise. Martin was responsible for loads, systems, and landing gear. And, Notey managed performance and avionics.

The team’s senior design instructor was Associate Professor Jason Merret. Teaching assistants for the course were Rodra Hascaryo and Raeann VanSickle.

Although this wa
Jason Merret
Jason Merret
s Merret’s first year as an instructor at Illinois, he isn’t new to aircraft design or teaching. He has over a decade of experience from his career with Gulfstream. He also taught at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. And, because he earned all three of his aerospace degrees from Illinois, he can relate to his students’ experience in class every step of the way.

“I was so proud of this year’s teams, not just the two that were recognized by AIAA,” Merret said. “It’s a demanding class, but I think it really prepares them for the real world, particularly when it comes to working well in teams. Engineering as a field is very team oriented. The students get the full experience, along with the highs, the lows, the deadlines, and the disasters that come with aircraft design.”