UBC AeroDesign Places 1st at SAE Aero Design West

Team members gather behind their Advanced Class aircraft.

(UBC AeroDesign poses with their Advanced Class aircraft prototype before the shut down of in-person gatherings in March, 2020)

Despite a summer without many of the usual aspects of the design competition experience – such as access to the machine shop or the ability to travel – UBC AeroDesign has still brought home first and third place titles in the 2020 SAE Aero Design West.

While the in-person competition was cancelled (originally to be held in Texas), UBC AeroDesign was still able to present the culmination of their 2019-2020 design work at a virtual competition held on June 12th, 2020. The virtual presentations garnered them first place overall in the Regular Class category and third overall in the Advanced Class category. The team also won awards for the design report (first place in Regular Class) and the technical presentation (second place in Regular Class, 3rd place in Advanced Class).

The Regular Class mission challenges teams to design an aircraft to carry the most payload, represented by soccer balls and steel plates. With a 120-inch wingspan, 1000 watts of power, and 100 foot runway limitations, the team strived to reduce their plane’s weight while maximizing its payload capacity. The Advanced Class mission is designed to simulate colonization on Mars, with a variety of payload being released mid-flight, including autonomous gliders carrying table tennis balls (“colonists”). This was only the team’s second year competing in Advanced Class, and they had to both optimize aircraft performance as well as develop a reliable avionics system to accurately release their payload on target.

Led by the 2019-2020 team captains, Steven Zimmerman (BASc ’20, MECH) and Gabriel Robinson-Leith (4th Year, ENPH), the team pursed two novel designs: a bi-plane for the Regular Class aircraft, and a blended-wing-body for the Advanced Class aircraft. The 60-member team had the opportunity to build two prototype aircrafts and successfully complete three test flights prior to the shut-down of in-person campus activities in March.

At the SAE virtual competition, the Regular Class technical presentation was given by Zimmerman and Robinson-Leith, while the Advanced Class technical presentation was given by class leads Neil Farvolden (BASc ’20, MECH) and Zhaowei Huo (4th Year, ELEC).

The team expresses their gratitude to the supporters who enabled their success:

“UBC AeroDesign would especially like to thank our sponsors for their generosity, Mr. John Siu (Team Pilot) for flying our planes at test flight, and Dr. Carl Ollivier-Gooch (Faculty Advisor) for his support.”

Congratulations to UBC AeroDesign on their achievement, and their ability to rise above the unique challenges of competing in a design competition during a global pandemic!