KU News Release

September 14, 2012
Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, 785-864-2936

Aerospace engineering graduates win multiple honors in competitions

More Information

LAWRENCE — Aerospace engineering students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering continue a long tradition of Jayhawk success in international design competitions.

In late August, students with ties to KU swept the 2012 Individual Aircraft Design Competition of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Teams of KU students also claimed first and third place in the AIAA, ASME, International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) Undergraduate Engine Design Competition.

The high marks for these students extend KU’s mark of excellence in AIAA aircraft design competitions. KU has earned more first and second place awards than any other academic institution in the world in the 44-year history of the competition.

“KU continues to be a global leader in terms of hands-on design experience for aerospace students. These awards from AIAA are a validation of that reputation,” said Z.J. Wang, Spahr Professor of Aerospace Engineering and chair of the department.

First place in Individual Aircraft Design went to 2012 KU aerospace engineering graduate Samantha Schueler, of Lawrence. Jorrit Vervoordeldonk, an exchange student jointly advised at KU and Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, took second place, and KU’s Alexander Lopez, Overland Park, won third place.

In the AIAA, ASME, International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) Undergraduate Engine Design Competition, Matthew Williams, Kansas City, Kan.; Aditya Ghate, India; Daniel Prather, Houston, and William VanSkike, Omaha, Neb. – on a team known as Jayhawk-Jet 120 – won first place. The team known as J2SER, composed of Justin Howard, Hays; JinSeong Kim, South Korea; Sarah Elizabeth McCandless, Fairway, and Ryan Schirmer, Berryton, earned third place. All are 2012 KU aerospace engineering graduates. Second place went to a team from Istanbul Technical University.

The Individual Aircraft Design Competition challenged students design an aircraft capable of surpassing the fastest times ever posted by air racers in the Reno, Nev., National Championship Air Races, where many of the aircraft are typically from the World War II era. Schueler’s winning entry placed a highest priority on safety while utilizing a somewhat radical design.

“My whole configuration was a big risk. The wing design was a W wing, which you don’t see very often. It helps to decrease the weight for the landing gear and can make it easier to prevent the aircraft from stalling,” Schueler said. “I also used a tri-engine configuration. I had the weight to play around with (competition guidelines required the aircraft to weigh at least 4,500 pounds), so I really wanted to implement a design to improve the aircraft’s power and speed.”

Schueler and her classmates were set to get a first-hand look at the subject of the competition. Several KU students were slated to attend parts of the Reno Air Races national championship in September 2011, but the show was canceled after a fatal plane crash that claimed the life of the pilot and 10 spectators.

“After that, it really drove home the importance of safety and made it my number one concern,” Schueler said.

Schueler’s first-place finish earned her a $500 prize and the opportunity to present her design at the AIAA Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference, Sept. 17-19, in Indianapolis.

Students involved in the undergraduate engine design competition were tasked to draw up plans for an engine capable of being used in an unmanned, half-scale military fighter jet (F-35/Joint Strike Fighter) for use within the next 20 years.

Williams, now a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was part of the four-person team that brought home first place. He said the team fulfilled the requirements for engine thrust and the aircraft’s auxiliary power, then made special considerations for fuel economy.

Two teams from KU were then invited to present their designs at the competition finals in Atlanta in early August.

“The judges said they appreciated that we met all the guidelines, but also had some selling points that exceeded the other competitor’s designs,” Williams said. “Our design had about 10 percent fuel savings and utilized some advanced technology that should be readily available within the next decade. Those two points differentiated our design and put us over the top.”

Williams and Schueler agree that KU’s aerospace engineering curriculum and faculty are key to the tradition of success in design competitions. Professor Saeed Farokhi served as adviser for the engine design teams, and Associate Professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez was adviser for the students taking part in the Individual Aircraft Design Competition.

“The faculty do a great job of building a foundation and providing support,” Schueler said. “They offer suggestions to get students thinking out of the box, get students to be creative, apply their knowledge and really come up with some solid designs.”

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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