OC places fifth at international aircraft design contest

An OC team placed fifth in the Society of Automotive Engineering Aero Design West competition.
An OC team placed fifth in the Society of Automotive Engineering Aero Design West competition.

A team of engineering students from Oklahoma Christian University beat out 29 other student teams from around the world this spring.

The OC team placed fifth in the Society of Automotive Engineering Aero Design West competition in Dallas, defeating schools as large as the University of Michigan and the University of Texas.

Students had to design and fly a radio-controlled airplane that carried 27 tennis balls with a half-pound steel plate in each ball, which represented passengers and luggage. OC’s team also submitted a written report and an oral presentation in the SAE competition.

OC’s Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Brad Buxton advised the team.

“I could not be more proud of our OC engineering students,” Buxton said. “We really enjoyed representing OC with a strong top-five finish.”

Student teams from colleges in the U.S., Canada, Egypt, India, Mexico, China and Poland competed in multiple classes. OC’s team competed in the five-country Regular Class and placed second in the oral presentation, fifth in the written report and sixth for flight performance.

All teams were limited to one kilowatt of power and a runway of 200 feet, which provided difficult design challenges. Students routinely adjusted to obstacles such as loose antenna wires and tough crosswinds to achieve successful flights.

Marina Pendleton led the OC team, and Joshua Hartman served as the technical lead. Other team members included Mitch Barron, Ben Griffith, Layne Hammer, Ian McElfresh, Wesley Shepherd and Jordan VanBuskirk. The team was sponsored by Niagra Bottling through OC alumnus Jim Utley and the OC Student Government Association.

OC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Scott LaMascus praised the students and Buxton.  

“We are incredibly proud of these students’ worthy accomplishment,” LaMascus said. “We are thankful for Professor Buxton’s guidance and support for these impressive students.”

Buxton added that a chief engineer from Lockheed Martin attended the competition. He asked for the OC students’ resumes and announced the company will hire 500 new college graduate engineers this year.

SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. This year, SAE offered 12 student competitions with real-life engineering challenges. OC student teams have participated in a number of those competitions in the past, such as the Baja SAE challenge to build and test an operating Baja buggy.