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Mizzou aeronautics team finishes high in national competition

Mizzou AIAA team members Dario Cersosimo, at left, Tim Tumulty, center, and Michael Pochek prepare the team’s plane for competition. Photo by Ryan Goold

Boosted by a powerful battery system that “set the bar” for the competition, Mizzou Engineering’s aeronautics team has brought home second–place honors from a national model airplane design contest.

Mizzou defeated six other teams to finish second at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Joint Propulsion Conference Student Design Challenge, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory on June 14–16 at the Wright–Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. MU scored particularly well in the competition’s energy category by generating as much as 1,100 watts of electrical power with a lithium–polymer battery system.

“We set the bar on that one,” said Michael Pochek, Mizzou’s design team chairman and a mechanical engineering senior. “That’s what we designed around.”

The University of Florida won first place in the AIAA competition, while California State Polytechnic University came in third, according to John Horner of the Air Force Research Laboratory. As the top two finishers, both the Mizzou and University of Florida teams presented their designs in July at an international joint propulsion conference in Ohio.

AIAA competitors faced off in both plane design and performance categories. Judges scored each plane on its design, the amount of energy generated by its power system, the number of laps it completed in 10 minutes while conducting live video surveillance and the time each plane took to climb to 250 feet.

Mizzou team leaders plan to build on this year’s competition success, which they attribute in part to pilot instruction they received from a local flying club, the Mid–Missouri Radio Control Association. Ryan Goold, a mechanical engineering senior serving as chair of MU’s AIAA chapter, hopes the team’s achievements will help interest freshmen and sophomores in a handful of competitions next year—including the propulsion and power system contest, if sponsors hold it.

“I would love to send a team back and go for that first place,” Goold said.