Each year since their establishment in 2016, MACH has designed and manufactured an aircraft to compete in the AIAA Design, Build, and Fly Competition (DBF). The competition consists of two components: a design report and a subsequent flight performance. This year, MACH has taken first place for their design report in the first phase of the competition, in which they competed with over ninety other international project teams.
For the 2020-2021 AIAA DBF Competition, MACH was tasked with building a UAV with a sensor suite capable of deploying and retracting an aerodynamically stable sensor mid-flight as well as transporting it in a protective shipping container when it wasn’t in-use. They also needed to ensure that that the wingspan of the UAV did not exceed 5 ft, that the aircraft must take off within 100 ft, and that the sensor must have three external lights fully visible during flight as well as be stored inside the aircraft during flight.
To deliberate these tasks, MACH began with an inclusive brainstorming session with all twenty team members to determine the general design of the plane. Then, they distributed the work to four technical subteams in charge of different components of the airplane. Team Captain Tyler Pangerl, Chief Engineer Andrew Wang, and Business Manager Cole Gibbs oversee the work completed by the Propulsion, Aerodynamics, Structures, and Mechanisms subteams which are all led by different project managers. When they encounter a feature that requires a change to the original plan, they address it as a team and continue their collaborative, iterative design process.
“Our design process is really driven by cooperation between the smaller subteams and the individual members of the subteams,” Chief Engineer, Andrew Wang said. “We take the very complex top-level requirements and turn them into simple requirements and build up that complexity from the ground upwards to become the full aircraft that we have now.”
MACH designed their aircraft with CAD and faced challenges accurately sizing the aircraft to optimize the aircraft’s competition performance and to provide a baseline to aid in the design of the individual subsystems. Structures subteam lead Gaby Chia reported that sizing the general configuration to scale was one of the hardest parts of the design process because of unforeseen conflicts that arose when trying to integrate the CAD designs with the mechanisms and structures team.
Once the CAD was perfected, the team moved into the construction phase where they distributed the main parts of the aircraft to different subgroups, such as the fuselage, wing, and engine. Once they were ready for manufacturing, they used a laser cutter from the AERO 205 lab, a 3D printer gifted to them by their sponsors, and a CNC hot wire cutter to make the parts of the plane in the CFL lab. With these helpful tools from the aerospace department, their manufacturing process has been streamlined.
“Not only have we increased our capacity to make these parts and increase the quality of them, but we’ve lowered our lead time as well because our 3D printer is dedicated just for our team’s use.”—Team Captain, Tyler Pangerl.
After all the hard work in the design process was complete—and staying up all night to complete the design report—all the teammates agreed that seeing their plane take its first test flight was a moment of pride and accomplishment.
“The first time we got the plane to the field and everything was running smoothly was a true culmination of all of our hard work, dedication, time and effort,” said Tyler Pangerl. “As a team, we’ve put about 4,000 hours into the plane this year, and to see it leap off the runway the first time right when the controller commanded it to was incredible.”
MACH recognizes that their success was influenced by the guidance of their advisor Joaquim Martins. As an aircraft design specialist, Prof. Martins participated in the Critical Design Review, helping the team improve their report. In addition to Martins’ help, MACH also received feedback from professionals in the aerospace industry whom the team was introduced to through their AEROSP 495 class, a models-based systems engineering course taught by Professor George Halow. The course helped them formalize their design process and elevate their report to meet real-world criteria with the guidance of industry professionals.
MACH has submitted their test proposal and are seated number one in the second competition. There will be a video conference for all of the teams that have participated and for the sponsors for the competition, where the overall competition winners will be announced in May. We wish them luck in the end of their competition and applaud them for their outstanding accomplishment.
MACH was founded in 2016. Team Captain, Tyler Pangerl, is a senior majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Chief Engineer, Andrew Wang, is also a senior majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Construction Manager, Sandilya Sai Garimella, is a second-year student majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Business Lead, Cole Gibbs, is a first-year Masters student. Propulsion Lead, Alanna Smith, is a sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in International Engineering. Eric Chandler works on the Propulsion sub-team and is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Engineering Physics. Aerodynamics Lead, Ben Levy, is a sophomore majoring in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Computer Science and Mathematics. The Aerodynamics sub-team members are Emilia Stehouwer, a junior majoring in Aerospace Engineering, Raymond Wang, Sunoo Chin, Aaron Melveney, and Evelyn Gonzalez. Structures Lead, Gaby Chia, is a sophomore majoring in Aerospace and minoring in Materials Science. The Structures sub-team members are Tom Sherman, Michael Grasinski, and Ken Lew. Mechanisms lead, Roei Shlagman, is a sophomore majoring in Aerospace Engineering and minoring in Computer Science. The Mechanisms sub-team is comprised of Vladimir Martinez, a sophomore majoring in Aerospace Engineering, and Jared Pavlick, who is majoring in biomedical engineering.