N.C. A&T Aero Design Team Tops in the United States

GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 2, 2018) – A team of seven North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University students traveled to Van Nuys, Calif., recently to compete at the SAE International Aero Design West competition. They returned home the best team in the country.

“We have been going to these competitions for the last 20 years, and this is the highest we have ever placed,” said Dr. John Kizito, a professor of mechanical engineering and the group’s advisor. “It was exciting, and I could not believe that we placed that high. The students answered the call, I told them, ‘We are going to the competition to win, not just to attend.’ They came out and won.”

Comprised of Nathan Blake, Jhalyn Davis, Simon Esau, Xinru Niu, Christopher Plott, Jasmine Shaw and Chad Staples, the team – NC(AT)2 – worked together to create and operate an aircraft. Their work earned a No. 2 overall finish in the regular class – the  Elliott & Dorothy Green Overall Regular Class Award – behind a team for Politechnika Poznanska in Poland, with Universidad Aeronautica en Queretaro of Mexico, Ningxia University of China, and Warsaw University of Technology in Poland rounding out the top five.

The SAE International Aero Design competition is intended to give undergraduate and graduate engineering students a real-life engineering challenge. The competition provides exposure to the diverse challenges faced by engineering in a real work environment. The organization includes more than 128,000 engineers and technical experts in aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries.

This competition also gives the College of Engineering the opportunity to benchmark their students against other universities for accreditation purposes and for the purposes of assessing themselves as a program.

“This shows that our students perform as well as, and sometimes better than, their counterparts at other institutions,” said Kizito.

This project served as a senior capstone project that began in August and ended in April. During that time, the students put in 40-60 hours per week on the aircraft.

For the second-place finish, the team received a silver medal, $750 in prize money and a plaque. The team also had the best 2D drawing and received the bronze medal for the Highest Payload Lifted in the regular class. In addition, the organization will pay to ship the plane for next year’s competition.