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Students’ jet engine designs earn 1st, 2nd in international contest

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

LAWRENCE — Two teams from the University of Kansas School of Engineering earned top honors in an international aircraft engine design competition.

A total of eight students claimed first and second place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and International Gas Turbine Institute International Undergraduate Team Engine Design Competition.

Teams were challenged to design an engine for a supersonic business jet that could travel from Europe to North America and back within one business day and be a design that could be ready for installation by 2025. KU’s first-place design capitalized on seldom-used engine technology that enables aircraft to operate at both subsonic and supersonic speeds.

“We decided that a variable cycle engine is best-suited for subsonic and supersonic missions. In every engine analysis, it beat the baseline engine,” said Sunayan Mullick, team captain and 2014 aerospace engineering graduate. “This design reduced the weight of the engine, increased the range and endurance and made our engine parameters much more efficient.”

Since variable cycle engine technology is not in wide use, the team had to rely heavily on design theory and computer modeling to prove its idea would be successful.

“It took us more than three months to figure out the design and get a working computer model, but we had it perfected about a week before the competition deadline,” Mullick said. “We knew we had a great concept because variable cycle is a smart system with valves that open and close depending on flight conditions, which can adjust accordingly based on how fast you want to go.”

The two teams were among three finalists invited to the AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference in late July in Cleveland. Each team presented research findings to a group of experts, who then ranked the designs, awarding KU the top two spots. First place earned $2,500. Second placed claimed a $1,500 prize.

This win extends KU’s mark of excellence in AIAA design competitions. Jayhawk aerospace engineering teams won awards in four competitions last year, and KU has earned more first- and second-place awards than any other academic institution in the world in the 46-year history of the competition. Mullick attributes KU’s long-standing excellence in aircraft design competitions to the school’s faculty.

“All professors are very accessible and welcoming. You can just drop by their office any time and talk,” Mullick said. “Whether it’s engine design or aircraft design or spacecraft design, the professors put in so much work and provide great guidance.”

First-place team members: Samuel Cott, Wamego; Adrian Kok Chiang Lee, Island Glades, Penang, Malaysia; Sunayan Mullick (team leader), Kolkata, West Bengal, India; and Alex Sizemore, Douglass.

Second-place team members: Sean Derry, Overland Park; Tondi Kambarami ,The Hague, Netherlands; Mary Pat Whittaker (team leader), Kansas City, Missouri; and YingLong Xu, Overland Park.

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