CSUN Team Soars in SAE International Aero Design West Competition

After almost a year of work, the efforts of the CSUN Aero Design team finally paid off. Photo courtesy of Roy Lara.

After working for nearly a year on a three-vehicle firefighting aircraft system – including a 40-pounder cargo plane and moving from fully virtual to in-person classes, the 27 Engineering students from the CSUN Aero Design team finally saw their hard work pay off last month in the competition finals.

Team CSUN competed against teams from prestigious universities in China, Egypt, India and Mexico in the competition’s toughest category – the Advanced Class – triumphing to place second in the Mission Performance category, which tests the quality of the three-vehicle system can work together in a firefighting scenario, and take third place in the technical presentation. These were two of the three main categories in the SAE International Aero Design West competition, held April 8-10 at Apollo Airfield in Van Nuys.

Students stand near a model airplane in an open field.

Sponsored by SAE International, the Aero Design West competition aims to challenge students with a real-world engineering problem. Photo courtesy of Roy Lara.

Sponsored by SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers), the Aero Design West competition is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with a real-world engineering challenge and exposure to situations engineers face. in real work environments.

“Participating in an international competition can keep the team motivated and united towards success and triumph,” said CSUN Professor Shadi Mahjoob, Team Supervisor and CSUN Aero Design Program Manager.

In a two-semester design course, students enter the competition to gain experience in designing, simulating, manufacturing, assembling, and testing a small light aircraft.

“Students learn and apply related science fundamentals, modeling and simulation, manufacturing and testing, risk analysis, [teamwork]time and cost management and systems design,” said Mahjoob, who also teaches heat transfer and applied heat transfer in the mechanical engineering department.

Airplane in the sky

This three-vehicle aircraft system was designed to help fight the California wildfires. Photo courtesy of Roy Lara.

The team’s main goal was to design a system of air and ground vehicles that could reach remote locations and help fight California’s wildfires, without compromising any lives, according to team captain Roy Lara.

“For the first time in 35 years, this [capstone] project exists at CSUN, this year’s Aero team decided to step out of their comfort zone and make something outside of a conventional aircraft like an airliner,” said Lara, an electrical engineering graduate. “We decided to go with a revolutionary new design, a mixed-wing aircraft, part of the flying wing family, for our primary aircraft.”

The system they designed consists of the main cargo plane which weighs about 40 pounds when loaded, and a smaller plane attached to the main plane called a powered autonomous delivery plane – similar to a delivery drone – which carries an autonomous underground transport vehicle, a small car that transports and distributes water by itself.

A student is carried on the shoulders of another, shouting with joy

The CSUN Aero Design team celebrates its achievements at the Van Nuys Apollo Airfield. Photo courtesy of Roy Lara.

In addition to their high ranking in the SAE International Aero Design West competition, the CSUN Aero Design team also impressed judges on campus this month at the CSUN Senior Design Project Showcase – sponsored by the College of Engineering and Computer Science – where they won the college prize. Best Senior Design Project Display and Department of Mechanical Engineering Best Overall Oral Presentation Award.

Aero Design, College of Engineering and Computer Science, CSUN Aero Design Team, CSUN Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Department, SAE International Aero Design West

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