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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Draper Students Strive to Soar Before Splashdown

Engineering Students Compete to Win Red Bull Flugtag

CAMBRIDGE, MA – A team of five college students currently working at Draper have designed and created the company’s entry into this year’s Red Bull Flugtag competition—where teams attempt to fly size- and weight-constrained, human-powered flying contraptions.

On August 20, flying machines and their pilots will be launched from a platform 28 feet above the Charles River. Draper’s flight crew includes two engineering interns and three cooperative education students. The craft they are building will compete against nearly 30 other teams, all with the goal of soaring the farthest before splashing into the Charles River.

The flight crew’s students are Violet Davis, Brown University, Applied Mathematics program; Max Gittelman, University of Michigan, Engineering and Computer Science programs; and the crew’s pilot, Sarita Marom, Northeastern University, Applied Physics program. Rounding out the crew are two mechanical engineering students, Shadi Abujoub from Carleton University and Chace Medeiros from the University of Rhode Island. In addition, another eight undergraduates are contributing to the build and design.

Draper funded the student project and provided access to Draper’s facilities and expert technical staff as part of its commitment to the advancement of education. The team’s advisor, Corey Juarez, a mechanical engineer in Draper’s Electronics and Systems Packaging group, identified the opportunity as a mechanism for allowing students to conceive of and create a complete system—in addition to their daily assignments during their time with the company. But he was quick to point out that while the students used Draper tools and mentoring from knowledgeable engineers, the students designed and built the craft themselves. “This opportunity provides students a chance to gain hands-on experience exploring design possibilities—ranging from the science of airfoils to the artistry of dragon motifs inspired by HBO’s Game of Thrones television program—the theme chosen by the students for entry into this year’s competition,” said Juarez.

Calling their team Possibilities Are Coming, the Draper-sponsored students are designing their aircraft to represent an aerodynamic dragon. The team’s creativity is not limited to the craft design; as part of the competition, they are required to perform a thirty-second piece of choreography prior to launch that will be judged as one-third of the team’s final score. This includes the team’s costumes, for which they have enlisted the help of a fashion design student from Framingham State University—Holly Fallon. Their performance will be based on a Game of Thrones scene in season 5 episode 9, featuring Daenerys’ flight from the Sons of the Harpy.

This type of opportunity is critical to attract student hires as well as to encourage them to remain in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields of study. Despite an increasing number of college graduates in STEM fields and close to $40 billion in U.S. government-sponsored STEM education programs, a gap in skills persists, according to employers in technology and engineering industries. Robert N. Charette, a contributing editor to IEEE Spectrum, asserts that a solution to this skills gap is employer-university collaborations, such as cooperative education and career development programs that place students in full-time, semester-long positions at employers in their field. He notes that “the student gains valuable professional hard and soft skill experience, while the employer gets a cost-effective means to evaluate a future STEM employee.”

Follow the Draper team’s preparations on social media @DraperLab on Twitter and on Draper’s Facebook page in the Red Bull Flugtag Facebook event, and vote with #VotePossibilitiesAreComing between August 15 and August 20.

Draper’s Red Bull Flugtag team Possibilities Are Coming flight crew members are (left to right) Chace Medeiros, Violet Davis, Sarita Marom, Max Gittelman and Shadi Abujoub. They will launch their flying machine at Flugtag Boston on Aug. 20, 2016, at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell.
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