Each of the Capstone Senior Design teams is able and encouraged to seek guidance outside of the classroom. The SAE Aero Micro team receives advice and direction outside of their coursework through additional talks with professors, meetings with local engineers and mechanical engineering graduate assistant, Sean King.
Each week, the Micro team has time to sit with King and discuss their calculations and designs for their plane.
At the midpoint of the semester, communications assistant M.B. Humphrey sat with King to talk about the ups and downs of the project and the team. Here’s the takeaway:
• On Aerodynamics
“One of the things that people generally run into is that we don’t have as many aero courses here, as say, a school with a full aerospace engineering program. A lot of the things students end up doing is sort of having to learn along the way.”
King said that having a “learn as you go” environment is generally not the most comfortable thing for students, but it does help them learn outside of the “well posed problem” environment that they are used to.
“Its pretty nice to learn to have the students go above and beyond to learn the aero design stuff. We have aerodynamics classes, but aerodynamics is only one part of building an airplane,” King said.
• On Working Together and Learning Efficiently
The team is at the end of the conceptual design phase and has gathered the appropriate tools and materials to build their plane over the holiday break. The team is prioritizing what most important for their plane as a project and as a competition piece. Weight reduction is a large part of airplane design, King said, and most of what they’re doing is ensuring that the plane is as light as possible.
“The aerodynamics part of the team is trying to make sure the plane is as stable as possible, too,” King said. “They’re priority is stability right now. Which is probably 90 percent of the battle.”
Electrical engineering senior Ryan Cenac, who is a part of the subgroup responsible for the electrical components of the plane, sought advice on the best server motor for the group, and when the appropriate time was to purchase it.
“With something this small scale, everything is sort of known already,” King said. “With RC (radio-remote control) hobbyists and the internet, people who do this make that sort of information known on forums, sharing the sorts of motors that work best. What I was kind of challenging was finding a better way of testing things, like motors and the varied outputs.”
• On the Program Overall
King said that the entire program has shown much progress. He explained that the teams are all on schedule more than they have been in the past. He said that stressing the time management and conducting consistent meetings with the teams probably aids in them staying on course.
“We’re directly asking where they are in terms of their design and where they’re going. We are trying to make sure they’re on track and if they aren’t on track, why they are not.” King said. “But, obviously, they aren’t going to be completely on track,” King said with a chuckle, explaining that they’ve never done this before, so they are all essentially making educated guesses.
Toward the end of the semester, the team did an embodiment proposal where they wrote a short report on the design they decided upon, and talked about how they will move forward from the final into the spring semester. The proposal also acted as a milestone to prove how they’re design works and that they are on track. Visit here in the spring semester to see how that presentation went.
Check out the video below to see clips of past LSU Micro teams during the SAE competition.
– written by M.B. Humphrey
LSU College of Engineering