NYU-Poly Team Takes Top Honors in SAE Aero Design West Competition

Team Bested Groups from Around the World in Quest to Design Lightweight Remote-Controlled Aircraft

A team from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) placed first in the Advanced Class category at the SAE Aero Design West Competition last week in Fort Worth, Texas. A total of 54 teams from around the world competed in the annual aerospace event, which presents graduate and undergraduate students with a real-life engineering design challenge and requires them to devise an innovative solution. The winning NYU-Poly team, the Aeronuts, is the first to nab a top slot for NYU-Poly in six years of competing at SAE Aero Design West. Previous teams scored second-place finishes in 2009 and 2010.

This year’s competitors were tasked with designing, building and testing a radio-controlled plane within specific technical limits and requirements. All competing crafts had to be an original design, fixed-wing aircraft with limited engine size and a weight of less than 55 pounds including payload. Each craft was also required to incorporate a braking system and data acquisition equipment to measure landing and takeoff distances.

The Aeronuts won the Advanced Class category. These competitors focused on designing aircraft that can lift as much weight as possible within the gross weight and engine power constraints while incorporating the data acquisition and braking system requirements.

With a craft weighing just 13 pounds, the Aeronuts achieved seven successful flights with a payload of 25.5 pounds—the greatest payload of any team— and were recognized for their plane’s remarkable in-air stability amid 30 mph wind gusts at the competition site. 

They were also the only team to employ a unique braking system — known as an airbrake — that utilizes existing control surfaces on the craft to create drag rather than relying on wheel brake pads.

“This is an exceptional recognition for a group of students who not only demonstrated strong technical knowledge and tactical skill, but also showed their ability to work successfully as a team to solve a difficult problem,” said NYU-Poly Provost Elizabeth Dianne Rekow. “This combination of academic excellence and creative ingenuity is at the heart of what we aim to instill in all NYU-Poly students. The team is a perfect example of i-squared-e in action,” she said, referring to the school’s commitment to Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

In addition to winning the Most Payload Lifted Award, the team took second place in the Technical Design Paper Award for written design plans.

Senior Design students formed the Aeronuts and four other teams to fulfill the project requirements of the class taken by all graduating underclass students majoring in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Other teams are building highly efficient automobiles and a wind turbine. The members of the Aeronuts are:

  • David Lopez (Team Captain) Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minors: Aerospace Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering
  • Gleb Dorogokupets (Team Pilot) Sophomore, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Aerospace Engineering
  • Carlos Diaz: Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Aerospace Engineering
  • John Fank: Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Eugene Prokofiev: Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Hussein Saab: Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Aerospace Engineering
  • Jon Starr: Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering

“This team did so many things right — well beyond developing a great aircraft,” said the instructor of the Senior Design course, Industry Associate Professor Joseph Boroweic of NYU-Poly’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. “They evaluated previous NYU-Poly teams’ designs to determine what worked and what needed to be improved upon, and they allowed those lessons to inform their design. Their success is no accident — this team planned to win.”

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About Polytechnic Institute of New York University
Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in a 157-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: i2e. The institution, founded in 1854, is the nation’s second-oldest private engineering school. In addition to its main campus in New York City at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it also offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. Globally, NYU-Poly has programs in Israel, China and is an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi.