NASA Glenn Hosting UAV Challenge at 23rd-Annual STEM Event


NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is hosting the 23rd-annual Young Astronaut Day (YAD) on Saturday, Nov. 7, where students will be tasked with developing both unmanned and manned aircraft concepts.

YAD is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach event for students in grades one through 12. Glenn Deputy Director Janet L. Kavandi, a former NASA astronaut, will present the keynote at 10:15 a.m.

Each year since 1992, NASA Glenn hosts up to 360 students to compete in hands-on activities related to engineering problem solving. This year, says NASA, students from northeast Ohio will compete for ribbons in various events that will explore problems engineers face and work on today.

The “Commanders,” seventh- through 12th-grade students, will tackle elements to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Their mission consists of four objectives:

  • Wing Structure Challenge: Create a new wing design concept featuring a long wingspan that withstands the aerodynamic forces during flight.
  • Let it Glide Challenge: All aircraft structures must be able to support immense loads on the ground and in flight while minimizing weight. Learners will be challenged to build a cantilevered frame structure similar to a wing – maximizing the length and the weight it can support.
  • UAV Launcher Challenge: Design a launcher for the UAV, and optimize its design to achieve the farthest distance.
  • Parachute Drag Challenge: Design and test parachutes using computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel experiments to aid in slowing down an aircraft.

The “Pilots,” first- through sixth-grade students, will design concepts that will be used to build NASA’s future aircraft. They must effectively perform four events, such as building an airplane wing, as well as having it fly, meeting noise requirements, ensuring a smooth landing, and choosing a proper propulsion system.

First-, second- and third-place ribbons will be awarded to the team for each competition in both the Pilot and Commander divisions.

“Young Astronaut Day gives students a chance to experience working on an engineering team and on activities that represent the type of work being performed at NASA,” says Ashlie Flegel, an aerospace engineer at Glenn. “Each year we see students’ creativity blossom as they solve engineering problems in this fast-paced, high-energy atmosphere.”

Photo courtesy of the Northern Ohio Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: Astronaut Stephanie Wilson at YAD 2014

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