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OC Students Reach Engineering Milestone in Honduras

Through Oklahoma Christian’s engineering program, students get hands-on experience using their gift and passion for engineering to help solve real-world problems and make a difference in the lives of those around them.

This year, as part of a senior engineering capstone project, a team of OC students worked together to design a drone. The project itself was a spectacular feat of engineering, but the students created the aircraft with a greater purpose in mind: to provide humanitarian assistance to rural communities in Honduras, building on the work completed by another group of OC students.

A previous engineering team, mentored by Professor Debra Whiteman, designed and delivered solar fridges to Predisan Health Ministries’ remote sites in Honduras that allows them to refrigerate essential medical supplies, like vaccines. The project was a success, but the team encountered numerous transportation challenges during their trip, including swollen rivers and rough roads with faulty bridges.

Recognizing that these transportation challenges in Honduras made it difficult for people in rural communities to access the medical resources they need, the recent class of senior Engineering students made it their mission to provide a solution to this problem.

Under the leadership of OC engineering professors Steve Maher and Colonel Brad Buxton, who mentored students in the design and implementation of the project, the students developed a drone to significantly decrease the time it takes to transport essential medical supplies, such as medicines and vaccines.

As professors Colonel Buxton and Steve Maher guided the process of designing and implementing the drone project throughout the semester, the students not only grew in their technical skills, but they also had the opportunity to put what they learned into action on the ground in Honduras.

Accompanied by Dr. Jeff McCormack, OC seniors Jelte Van Atten (‘22) and Adam Hemphill (‘22) were joined by juniors Jonathan Ballard (‘23) and Nathan Stover (‘23) to travel to Honduras to execute the initial test flight from Catacamas to Culmi, with the goals of navigating a safe, controlled flight through the mountainous terrain, delivering a payload of materials, and collecting critical data needed to develop the next iteration of the drone.

“When I first started this project I wanted to do it because I thought drones are cool and it would give me a good opportunity to get experience in the field,” said Jelte Van Atten, “Now that I’ve been to Honduras and talked to the people and have seen the clinics my perspective has changed. A drone like ours can possibly save lives.”

The students’ hard work in developing the drone paid off! During the test flight, their drone successfully navigated the terrain of Honduras and demonstrated a quick arrival time, proving a drone can be used to fly between clinics and deliver materials.

Their success marked numerous milestone accomplishments for the OC engineering team, including:

  • First flight without a pilot
  • First long range flight beyond line-of-sight
  • First high altitude flight
  • First flight without direct remote control
  • First flight operation in Honduras

“This flight achieved all our goals, and demonstrated that the work and modeling we did in Oklahoma was valid, which will allow the next team to design with confidence,” said Adam Hemphill.

Engineering students Jonathan Ballard and Nathan Stover, who participated in the trip to Honduras, are currently using the data gathered during the 2022 drone project to design a drone capable of real operations to provide humanitarian aid– an achievement that both the students and the Honduran people are excited about.

“The Honduran people love the idea of connecting the rural communities with drones,” said Jelte Van Atten, “everyone seemed super excited and saw a lot of opportunities and potential.”

The full list of OC engineering students who contributed to this project include:

- Adam Hemphill (‘22, Mechanical Engineering)

- Garrett Hesselink (‘22, Mechanical Engineering)

- Jacob Wilson (‘22, Mechanical Engineering)

- Jelte van Atten (‘22, Mechanical Engineering)

- Daniël Andrese (‘22, Electrical engineering)

- Jonathan Godfrey (‘22, Electrical engineering)

- Austin Kemp (‘22, Electrical engineering)

- Jonathan Ballard (‘23)

- Nathan Stover (‘23)

Congratulations OC Eagles on a successful test flight! We’re proud of your commitment to drive innovation, serve those in need, and represent OC on an international scale.