Ohio State University Design/Build/Fly team places sixth in 27th Annual AIAA Design/Build/Fly Competition

Posted: May 24, 2023
DBF Negative 5G during takeoff for a flight mission

The Ohio State University Design/Build/Fly team placed sixth out of 99 teams in the 27th annual Design/Build/Fly competition hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) held in Tucson, Arizona on April 13-16, 2023.

The goal of this year’s competition was to design and create an aircraft that was required to be storable in a box with all mission payloads that had a combined length, width, and height measurement of 62 inches, and needed to be quickly assembled to flight-ready condition by one person within five minutes.

“Over the past few years, and especially early in the 2022-2023 academic year, our leadership team has driven significant changes in the structure and culture of our team. We now have vastly improved member retainment and engagement, resulting in a larger and more well-connected team than before,” Andres Lu, the DBF president, said. “Placing 6th out of 99 teams in the 2023 DBF competition shows us that the changes we have made are leading us in the right direction, and that a team that feels safe, welcomed, and valued is a team that is dedicated enough to be competitive. It attests to how much our members have learned and grown as engineers. Placing so high in this competition is no easy feat, and I am incredibly proud of our team for earning our place well within the top 10 this year.”

The competition was made up of four missions, including one ground mission and three flight missions, that needed completed by the aircraft.

For the ground mission, the 7.2-pound aircraft was loaded with the heaviest payload configuration and an additional 112 pounds of weight while only being supported at the wingtips. The first flight mission served to demonstrate the airworthiness of the aircraft without any payload. Mission 2 involved flying as many laps as possible within a 10-minute time window while carrying as much weight as possible in an internally-stored electronics package. Mission 3 used a Jamming Antenna made out of ½” diameter PVC pipe as the payload, and the antenna had to be mounted vertically above the wing at only one wingtip. The goal was to fly three laps as quickly as possible with the longest antenna possible.

Each mission was evaluated and graded by a team of judges then combined to get a final score for each team. The team placed higher than several notable schools, including the University of Michigan, MIT, Stanford University, Georgia Tech, CalPoly, Purdue, and Cornell, among many others.

“With such a large pool of teams who participate in DBF, we always face some tough competition,” Lu said.” At times, it felt daunting to go head-to-head against some of the larger and more experienced teams, but we were confident that we could hit well above our weight. Additionally, knowing that there were so many good teams there made our 6th place finish even more rewarding.”

The OSU Design Build Fly team in Tucson for the competition

For Lu and the rest of the DBF team, juggling an engineering student’s workload with trying to design and build the best aircraft they could was the largest challenge they faced this year, but despite the packed schedule they were proud of what they accomplished.

“It is incredibly difficult to balance your workload as an engineering student, let alone as an engineering student who is also heavily involved in a student engineering competition team,” Lu said. “This is not only true for the leadership team, but also for all of our members who dedicate so much of their time to our team and our aircraft. Timelines for these competitions are always tight, but I am proud of how our team was able to pull together and get things done during critical times in the project.”

This year’s DBF team was sponsored by GE Aviation.

“GE Aviation has supported us this year with multiple networking opportunities, social events, and funding,” Lu said. “We would also like to extend a deep note of gratitude to the College of Engineering at OSU for their support and funding for our team throughout the years.”

The primary advisor for DBF is Dr. Brian Ritchie, and the technical advisors are Dr. Clifford Whitfield and Dr. Matthew McCrink.

“We would like to especially thank Dr. Ritchie for watching out for our team throughout this year, and would also like to thank Ross Heidersbach for his support and advice for our team,” Lu said.

With the new direction of the team’s culture and leadership, Lu thinks DBF’s future is bright.

“Due to the nature of student competition teams, there is a regular turnover of membership when seniors graduate, and younger students join. As a senior myself, it is bittersweet to soon be leaving the team behind. Naturally, this turnover can lead to concerns about knowledge gaps that must be filled,” Lu said. “While there will always be some room to catch up after a graduating class leaves, I am happy to say that I am extremely confident in next year’s leadership. They have continuously brought their passion for our planes, their dedication for our project, and their enthusiasm for our team. I have no doubt that the OSU DBF team will continue to excel in future competitions and serve as an outlet for Buckeye engineering students to explore their passion for aviation.”