The Electric Cargo Plane Challenge
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The Electric Cargo Plane Challenge An Aeronautics Challenge for the Middle and High School Classroom - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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The Electric Cargo Plane Challenge An Aeronautics Challenge for the Middle and High School Classroom. Tom Milnes JHU/APL & AIAA Baltimore Section Paul Wiedorn Wilde Lake HS & TEAM. AIAA Baltimore Section Support. Major Supporter of Maryland MESA Judges for National Competition and MESA Days

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The Electric Cargo Plane ChallengeAn Aeronautics Challenge for theMiddle and High School Classroom

Tom Milnes

JHU/APL & AIAA Baltimore Section

Paul Wiedorn

Wilde Lake HS & TEAM

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AIAA Baltimore Section Support

  • Major Supporter of Maryland MESA

    • Judges for National Competition and MESA Days

    • Members of National Competition Committee

    • Up, Up, and Away Workshop

    • Workshops on MESA Aerospace Challenges

    • Classroom Visits

    • Career Workshops at BEYA Event

    • Funding for Classroom Projects

    • RC Airplane Program Pilot

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AIAA Support for K-12 Educators

  • AIAA Grant Program

    • $200 per teacher, up to $1000 per school for K-12 Classroom projects related to Aerospace

    • Steps

      • Join AIAA for Free as an Educator Associate


      • Submit Online Application


        • Must conform to guidelines, Principal approval needed


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Electric Powered Flight as a Learning Tool

  • Topics for Learning

    • Newton’s Laws, Forces and Torques, Conservation of Mass, Momentum, and Energy, DC Electronics, Dynamics, Kinematics, Propulsion, Energy Conversion, Aerodynamics, Gravity, Stability, Equilibrium, Drag, Lift, Friction

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National Standards

  • Science

    • Standard B - Physical Science

      • Motions and Forces

      • Conservation of Energy and Increase in Disorder

    • Standard E - Science and Technology

      • Identify a problem or design an opportunity

      • Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions.

      • Implement a proposed solution.

      • Evaluate the solution and its consequences. Communicate the problem, process, and solution.

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National Standards

  • Technology

    • Design

      • Standard 8. Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.

      • Standard 9. Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.

      • Standard 10. Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

    • Abilities for a Technological World

      • Standard 11. Students will develop abilities to apply the design process.

    • The Designed World

      • Standard 18. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use transportation technologies.

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Why Tethered Flight?

  • Radio Controlled Airplanes Can Be Problematic for School Use

    • Expensive Electromechanical Controls Needed

    • Large Airfield and Good Weather Needed

  • Tethered Flight Solves These Problems

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Tethered Flight Concept




Clear Packing Tape






  • Constrained Flight Path

    • Can be done Indoors

    • Expensive RC Equipment not needed

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Electric Cargo Challenge

  • Part of the Maryland Engineering Challenges

    • Held at the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aerospace Museum

      • Saturday February 20, 2010

    • Open to all Middle and High School Student

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Electric Cargo Challenge

  • Maryland Engineering Challenges Rules


  • MESA Challenge Rules


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Electric Cargo Plane Challenge

  • Must complete one lap of tethered flight with and without cargo about the power pole

    • Plane must be 8” off the ground at all times

  • Scoring

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What You Get


Kelvin Electronics 850647

3-6V, 17000 RPM, .26A

$.79 each


Kelvin Electronics 990175

$5.75 per set of 8

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What’s Needed

  • Power Pole - We recommend Kelvin 850747 - $175


    • AIAA Educator Grant Can Be Used to Fund

  • Power Supply

    • Model Train Variable DC Transformer

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What’s Needed

  • Wings - Pink or Blue Foam Board - Home Depot $12

  • Fuselage - Basswood or Graphite Kite Stay

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The Four Forces





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Out of Trim








Center of Pressure (1/4 to 1/3 from leading edge of wing)

Center of Gravity (“Balance Point” of Aircraft)

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Center of Pressure (CP) should Coincide with Center of Gravity (CG)

For Level Flight!! Use Rubber Bands to Achieve Adjustable Wings!

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Where to Put Cargo

  • Don’t Want to Change Trim of Airplane

  • Should Add Cargo Such that Center of Gravity (“Balance Point”) Does not move

    • Aerodynamic and Gravity Forces remain aligned so Airplane Remains Trimmed

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Electrical Connections


clear tape




main wing

+/- wire pair

3 feet maximum

10 feet minimum


Electrical Connections

Green -

Yellow +

Black -

Red +


(View from Bottom)

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How is Lift Generated?

  • Lift is generated when a solid object such as wing turns a moving flow downward

    • Newton’s Third Law

      • For Every Action there is an Equal and Opposite Reaction

      • ACTION - Air (which has mass and velocity) is directed downward

      • REACTION - Wing moves upward

  • The Bernoulli Effect is a Minor Component of Lift

    • About 1/10 of Total

    • Ignores Viscosity of Air

      • Causes Air to “adhere” the surface of the wing - “Coanda Effect”

      • Turning of Air about Leading Edge - “Leading Edge Suction” is the primary cause of Lift

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Pressure on Airfoil

Leading Edge


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Best Airfoil?

  • Best Wing Redirects Air Downward Without Slowing it Down.

    • To a point more redirection is better

    • After that point air will not remain “attached” to wing

      • Lift decreases and Drag increases “Stall”

    • Trick is to find optimum level of redirection

      • Angle of Attack

        • Even a flat plate will produce lift

      • Camber

        • Gentle curvature of wing

      • Thickness along Camber

        • Blunt Leading Edge

        • Tapered Trailing Edge

        • Maximum Thickness 1/3 way back

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Best Wing?

  • Should I Copy a Jet Airliner Wing?

    • NO - Aerodynamically Similar If

    • Since density and viscosity are constant for air want the product of Velocity and Length (vL) to be the same

      • Jet Aircraft are both Bigger and Faster - Performance Not The Same

      • Birds and Insect Wings are a Better Match

  • How Long Should the Wing Be?

    • Use maximum 3’ - Lift increases with area and L/D increases as wing span increases

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“Turning In Problem”


Of Tether

Greater Weight on Inner Wheel

Produces Greater Friction

Airplane Turns Inward

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Practice, Practice

  • Successful teams will have experience flying, adjusting, and repairing planes

    • Unlikely to do well if your plane hasn’t been tested with power pole

  • Teachers can use AIAA Grant Program to Obtain Power Pole and Power Supply