Students take flight in aerospace engineering

Students take flight in aerospace engineering
Posted on 11/17/2021
Student at Oakville High School throws their gliderOakville High School aerospace engineering students took to the skies after designing and building gliders. Aerospace engineering is a Project Lead the Way course offered at Mehlville High School and Oakville High School. 

“We’re talking about how lift and drag work,” said Kristin Pierce, Oakville High teacher. “The goal is to design a plane powered by the wind.” 
Aerospace engineering wind tunnel
Image: Oakville High School aerospace engineering students experiment with a wind tunnel.

Students began the project in the classroom discussing different types of airfoils and using the wind tunnel to collect data. They used that information to design gliders using a computer simulation. The program helped students determine the likelihood the glider they designed would be able to fly. 

“It was difficult to determine which part of your measurements you had to change,” said Magena Baker, Oakville High junior. “You would make one adjustment, and then there would be something else you’d have to change as a result.” 
Students using computers
Image: Aerospace engineering students designed their gliders using a computer program that also helped to determine the likelihood their design would be able to fly based on its specifications.

While students had certain parameters to adhere to as part of the project, there was autonomy in how each student designed their glider. 

“Some of the planes are really big, and some of the planes are tiny,” said Pierce. “But they’re all going for that some goal of longest distance. They had to make their own decisions along the way.”

Once the design process was complete, students constructed the gliders out of wood. They brought their gliders outside and tested the flight ability, collecting data like airtime and distance. After observing, they made adjustments to their glider to improve their results.
Student makes adjustments to gliderImage: Students observed their gliders, then made adjustments to increase or decrease the weight, and increase or decrease the drag to attempt to make it fly further. 

“They can trim parts of the plane using sandpaper to adjust the center of gravity and make it more balanced,” said Pierce. “They can also add clay to the portion of the plane that needs extra mass.” 

Oakville High senior Gino Lanasa plans to attend Missouri S&T next fall where he’ll pursue a career in aerospace engineering. 

“This class has introduced me to the principles and the basic knowledge that I’ll need moving forward in my education,” said Lanasa. 

Most of the first semester of aerospace engineering focuses on those flight principles. The second semester has an emphasis on space, with students completing other hands-on projects like building rockets and designing robots to traverse the terrain of a planet. 

Sophomores, juniors and seniors can enroll in aerospace engineering after completing the prerequisite of introduction to engineering design. 

Watch the video to learn more about the project and the aerospace engineering course.

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