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LETU Engineering Students Win First Place at SAE AeroDesign Competition


LeTourneau University engineering students won first place overall for their remote-controlled airplane in the 2011 AeroDesign West student competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The competition included 58 teams from school in the U.S. and abroad. Competition was held March 18-20 at Thunderbird RC Flying Field near Fort Worth, Texas.

AeroDesign is an SAE competition where students completely design and build a radio-controlled airplane from scratch that can lift the maximum amount of payload weight and land safely after completing a circuit of the airfield. Takeoff ground roll is limited to 200 feet and it must be in one piece after the landing.

Competitors use identical engines and all planes must meet the same overall design limitations. To be competitive the planes must have an extremely high lift wing with very low drag and the lowest empty weight possible. The competition includes a design report due well before the event, and an oral presentation on their design in front of a panel of professional engineers which is done at the event. Scoring for the whole competition is based on the design report, the presentation, and the flight scores.

The LETU students built the lightest weight plane, at only 8.3 pounds, and carried a payload weight of 33.28 pounds, which is at or near the maximum ever carried in regular class at any SAE event. The second place team had a plane that weighed 17 pounds and carried 28 pounds of payload.

Besides the first place overall in the regular class, the LETU Aero Design team also won awards for most payload lifted, most innovative design (for landing gear design) and a third place in regular class design report.

Senior Levi Self of Longview, Texas, was the team captain. Other team members included seniors Austin Buschman of Perryton, Texas; Luke Heagney of Corona, Calif.; Ben Lewis of Longview, Texas; Matt Morrison of Richland Hills, Texas; Chris Plorin of Colleyville, Texas; and junior Jonathan Olson of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Aeronautical Science professor Lauren Bitikofer was the team pilot. Dean Tom Hellmuth was the team faculty advisor.

Team sponsor is Corporate Aero Group, Inc owned by Brian French, a 2003 LeTourneau alumnus.

LeTourneau University is an interdenominational Christian university located in Longview, Texas, offering academic majors in aeronautical science, business, education, engineering, health care, the humanities and sciences. LeTourneau University also offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs for working adults online and at educational centers in Austin, Bedford, Dallas, Houston and Tyler.

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