Engineers-in-training competed for the right to call themselves world
champion drone builders at the 22nd annual ASME Student Design
Competition (SDC) finals today at the International Mechanical
Engineering Congress & Exhibition at Montreal's Palais des Congres.
The international slate of teams - including squads from universities
in China, France, India, Peru, Turkey and across the United States -
brought their talent and training to bear on one of today's hottest
mechanical technologies: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or as they are
better known, drones. Each team had designed and built a powerful,
maneuverable, remotely-piloted drone to fly in this year's competition.
Today, drones are one of the world's hottest technologies. Though an
industry still in its infancy, drones and their potential have captured
the imaginations of leaders in business, government and academia. They
promise new solutions for difficult, dangerous or time-critical tasks
in industries from agriculture to emergency medicine, from energy to
journalism and beyond.
The SDC Challenge for 2014: design and build an original drone, pilot
it successfully through a series of high and low obstacles, complete a
targeted payload drop, and return to the start -- in one piece.
Student engineer Oscar Wall Arias of the Instituto Tecnologico de
Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) exemplified not only the technical excellence of
the assembled teams but their humane ambition. "We're engineers," Arias
said. "We're here to do good, to build, to make human lives better.
What a great thing to be here with all these great teams today."
At day's end, the University of North Dakota team took first place with
their massive 78.4lb. gleaming steel-and-aluminum machine. Second place
went to the nine-man, black-clad squad from California Polytechnic
State University. Third place was taken by the "Airwolf," the drone
flown by the "Wolfpack" team from North Carolina State University.
Every year, the SDC tests the mettle of young engineering students
through a design-and-build challenge based on latest developments in
industry and academia. A committee of ASME members led by Dr. Tim
Hodges, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Virginia Military
Institute, works throughout the year to bring the SDC to life.
"Students get to use their engineering knowledge to design and build a
vehicle, and then they get to compare their work with that of their
peers," Hodges said. "It gives them lots of confidence to work into the
future and toward employment in the real world. And they have done such
a wonderful job." Wearing protective glasses and clutching clipboards,
Hodges and his colleagues also served as judges of the competition.
And a great day of competition it was: motors roared; assembled crowds
hooted, laughed, and cheered; multicolored, multi-propellered flying
robots swooped and zoomed high, loud and sometimes dangerously close to
the competitors and judges in the arena. Judges' papers were repeatedly
blown away by the windy force of the machines in flight. And though
many succeeded, several entries crashed and shattered, with
carbon-fiber blades and aluminum struts flying in all directions.
ASME President J. Robert Sims was deeply impressed by what he saw.
"From looking at the exhibits and talking to the students, their
dedication and expertise is just amazing," Sims said. "These folks are
going to do well in the future in engineering. It's just a very
impressive group - all of them. Whether they're winners or not in the
finals, they are incredible individuals."
Said Scott McDaniel of North Dakota's winning team: "We drove two full
days to get here from North Dakota - I'm so glad we did!"