Aerocats Compete In International Design Competition

By: Diana Riggs
Date: April 2, 2018

Every year, Aerocats test their aircraft design skills against 75 other collegiate engineering teams from around the globe.

The 2018 UC Aerocats advanced Team stands outside with their aircraft

Aerocats Advanced Team earned 3rd place overall.

On March 9, the Aerocats participated in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s 2018 Aero Design East Competition in Lakeland, Florida. Led by their faculty advisor, Mark Fellows, 46 aerospace engineering students attended the collegiate aerospace design event.

Three Bearcat teams entered remote-controlled aircraft in the competition—one for each class: Regular, Advanced and Micro. Each class is works within different restrictions that reflect real-world design challenges. Each team member earned medals for high scores in various portions of the competition, and UC was awarded a plaque for each of the teams’ exemplary performances.

  • The Regular class team finished in 2nd place in the Oral Presentation out of 34 teams. 
  • The Advanced team finished 3rd place overall in the class of 18 teams, and third in the flight competition event. A check for $500 will be awarded to the department of aerospace engineering for the Advanced team’s outstanding flight.
  • The Micro team took home 4th place out of 25 teams, thanks to a strong design report (3rd place), and an impressive assembly speed of only 27 seconds.
The 2018 UC Aerocats Micro Team stands outside with their aircraft

The Aerocats Micro Team shows off their design.

After the event, Micro team leader Ben Gapinski described the skill of Aerocats pilot Santiago Panzardi, who maintained control of the aircraft as the wings began to see-saw during a thrilling flight attempt for the Micro class.

"Soon after launch, the wings started to snap left and right. Santiago somehow was able to use the snapping to make the first turn, taking the turn at almost a full 90 degree bank. Along the backstretch of the course, the plane was still see-sawing and looked as if it could drop out of the sky. Santiago maintained enough control to complete the second turn in similar fashion to level out the plane long enough on the front stretch to make a smooth landing. The crowd cheered and I gave him a big hug and shook him around a bit,” Gapinski proudly reported.

The 2018 UC Aerocats Regular Team stands outside with their aircraft

UC Aerocats Regular Team at SAE East 2018.

The flight portion of the competition generates the most buzz, but the teams have to develop fully-functional design packages for the judges. To highlight the importance of communication skills in the engineering field, teams are required to write an extensive design report and give an oral presentation in addition to completing the flight challenges.

The competition is the culmination of the senior aerospace engineering capstone course and also a student organization. The Aerocats capstone integrates SAE’s design challenge so that students can compress a typical aircraft development program into one calendar year, offering the opportunity to develop a project from conception to demonstration. Throughout fall and winter, the Aerocats plan and test aircraft designs to fit specs designated for each challenge.

Students who are interested in Aerocats or the aerospace engineering program are invited to contact Mark Fellows in the department of aerospace engineering.