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Engineering Students Recognized for Next-Generation Aircraft Design

Three Ohio State engineering students have summer jobs at NASA this year, thanks to accolades their team received during participation in a contest to design a supersonic commercial airliner.

College students from the United States, Japan and India researched technology and designed concepts for a supersonic passenger jet as part of a competition sponsored by the Fundamental Aeronautics Program in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Designs had to be efficient, environmentally friendly, low sonic boom aircraft that could be ready for initial service by 2020.

NASA engineers awarded an honorable mention in the undergraduate division to Ohio State’s team, which consisted of 22 juniors from aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering. The team was led by Kevin Disotell, a senior in aerospace engineering, and advised by James Gregory, assistant professor of aerospace engineering. The award carries a cash prize and an invitation to present their design at the annual NASA Fundamental Aeronautics Meeting in Atlanta in September.

In addition to receiving the honorable mention, three Ohio State teammates, the most from any team in the contest, were selected for internships: Jonathan Friedmeyer (Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.), Kevin Holcomb (Glenn Research Center in Cleveland), and Alison Snyder (Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.). The aerospace engineering majors were selected based on their resumes, grade-point averages and application letters.
Ohio State’s Project Swordfish team members are (front row, from left) Kevin Holcomb, Tim Le, Kevin Disotell, Alison Snyder, Nachiket Deshpande and Andrew Roettgen; (middle row, from left) Matt Hansen, Alex Chen, Stephen Norris, Rob Craun, Maria Tolstykh, Riley Vollmer and Alvaro Hernandez; and (back row, from left) Justin Morone, Jon Friedmeyer, Josh Drummond, Andrew Zaydak, Stuart Benton, Chris Jensen, Joey Balla, Jake McQuaide and Karl Gantner.

“This team of Ohio State juniors collaborated to design an advanced aircraft using analysis skills surpassing those of typical aerospace undergraduates. They did an outstanding job!” said Gregory, team advisor.

The Ohio State team’s aircraft, dubbed the “Swordfish,” was a biplane designed to cruise at Mach 1.6 with a passenger capacity of 35 and range of 4,000 nautical miles. The sonic boom level was estimated to be just under 70 PldB (perceived level of loudness in decibels), which is the technology goal for supersonic aircraft in 2020.

“With such a large team, the competition was a great exercise in both engineering and communication,” said Disotell, who will present Ohio State’s design to NASA this fall with teammate and fellow aerospace engineering senior Andrew Roettgen. “We divided into five smaller groups, each focusing on a particular design element, and developed a leadership hierarchy.”

A team of undergraduates from the University of Virginia and a team of graduate students from the Georgia Institute of Technology tied for first place in the U.S. division. An undergraduate team from the University of Tokyo won top honors in the non-U.S. category.

“We use these competitions to generate excitement for aeronautics and the engineering behind aviation,” said Peter Coen, principal investigator of the Supersonics Project at NASA Langley Research Center. “I was pleased by the number and diversity of the entries we received. And I was impressed by the quality and innovative thinking demonstrated in the designs.”

NASA engineers who reviewed the entries based the scores on how well students addressed all aspects of the problem they chose to discuss. The judges used the following criteria: innovation and creativity; discussion of feasibility; a brief review of pertinent literature; and a baseline comparison with the relevant current technology, system or design.