UCI Engineering Students Take First in 2013 Design/Build/Fly Competition

UC Irvine’s engineering students won first place at the 17th annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Design/Build/Fly (DBF) competition in Tucson, Arizona in April.

“We expected to place in the top 10, given our preparation and effort,” says John Wei-Han Chen, senior engineering student and DBF project manager. “It definitely felt good to see all of our hard work coming together. We are extremely happy to bring back first place to UCI.”

A partnership between the AIAA Foundation, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Raytheon Missile Systems, the DBF competition provides students an opportunity to design and build a radio controlled aircraft to perform specific missions. Participants who complete a letter of intent and submit a report on time are invited to bring their plane to a central location for a fly off. Winners are determined by a combination of their report score and their flight score.

This year’s design assignment was a simulation of a Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with three missions: speed/endurance, stealth (internal payloads) and strike (carrying a randomly assigned configuration of external/internal rockets).

UCI’s team, comprised of 31 students from The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, spent eight months on its entry. Their report earned them a rank of 6 out of 81 teams, which meant they were sixth to fly in the competition. UCI’s aircraft achieved five laps under four minutes around a 1,000 foot long course in Mission1, carried the most internal rockets (12 rockets, 3lbs total)  for Mission 2, and flew with four external rockets for Mission 3.

“The DBF is a serious competition that culminates a year of airplane design fabrication and flight testing,” explains Robert Liebeck, adjunct professor, mechanical and aerospace engineering. “The physics of the DBF airplane are the same as that of full-scale flight vehicles (e.g. from a Cessna to a B747).  For many of the students, this is their first experience building anything, let alone a competition airplane. With the popularity of drones today, DBF experience is a nugget on their resumes for employment with an aerospace company.  I am extremely proud of the UCI DBF team. They did it all themselves. My role could be best described as cheerleader.”

Faculty advisor - Professor Robert Liebeck

Students - Shaun Abdelkerim, Ana Paula Arakaki, Hugo Banh, Albert Barber, Fabio Bendana, Sarah Black, Jessica Chean, John Chen, Michael Chung, Geoff Dubridge, Michaela Fleming, Michael Gamboa, Daniel Grant, Varun Jasuja, Khizer Karwa, Kevin Kho, Lawrence Ng, Ravi Patel, Paul Parcell, Joe Petrilli, Silvestre Pineda, Charles Poblete, Ruel Rabbon, Roi Rivera, Javier Ruiz, Zach Satterfield, Colin Sledge, Sothea Sok, Giuseppe Venneri, Bruno Vu, Robert Zavala