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Engineering students take 2nd, 3rd in jet design competition

Friday, October 31, 2014

LAWRENCE — Innovative designs for an advanced pilot training aircraft earned two recent University of Kansas School of Engineering graduates top recognition in a prestigious aircraft design competition.

Aerospace engineering 2014 graduates Alejandra Escalera, Bolivia, and Eleazar Lachino, East Moline, Illinois, earned second and third place, respectively, in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Individual Undergraduate Aircraft Design Competition. The two were advised by Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering.

Competitors were challenged to design an aircraft to facilitate a better future training experience for jet fighter pilots. Unlike a traditional fighter jet, a training aircraft must have two seats, one for the instructor and one for the pilot, which means a larger, wider cockpit.

“My design included a wing that allowed for additional vortex lift, as well as enhanced directional stability and maneuverability. This setup reduces drag,” Escalera said about her second-place design. “I also only included one engine, which had two inlets. That allows for a lot of weight savings compared with two engines.”

Lachino, whose design earned third place, said the competition provided a great learning experience.

“It required a lot of creativity from a design standpoint, because the aircraft has to be cost-efficient and provide an experience similar to what the pilot will encounter once training is complete. It forces you to look at a lot of different options and try to solve problems in a new way,” Lachino said.

This honor extends KU’s mark of excellence in AIAA design competitions. KU has earned more first- and second-place awards than any other academic institution in the world in the 47-year history of the competition. That includes a total of five team and individual awards this year.

“I think all of the success in these competitions is because all the students are hard-working, motivated and enthusiastic,” Escalera said. “If you have a bunch of talented people who are working for something they’re passionate about, the awards will come. The outstanding support from the aerospace engineering faculty is also key. Their mentoring and guidance throughout the process allowed us to stand out and win all these AIAA competitions.” 

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