USI Student Team Finishes Second in National 3D Printed Airplane Competition


Four students from the University of Southern Indiana, advised by two USI professors, competed in the sixth annual 3D-printed airplane competition, hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington at Maverick Stadium in Arlington , in Texas. The team placed second in the fixed-wing category with its best flight time of 9.17 seconds. The competition hosted 16 student teams from across the country, including Stanford, Baylor, San Diego State, Virginia Tech and more.

The competition consisted of teams of students designing a small plane with a 3D-printed lightweight airframe. Each team’s aircraft had three attempts to achieve the longest flight time, with the constraint that only eight seconds of powered flight were allowed per flight.

Joel Knackmuhs, Landon Mayer, Glen Rouch and Isaac Whitehead, all graduating from USI in Mechanical Engineering in the spring of 2022, designed and built several iterations of an aircraft design as part of their ENGR 491 Senior Design Project, advised and assisted by Dr. Jul Davis, Associate Professor of Engineering, and Dr. Todd Nelson, Assistant Professor of Engineering.

The students brought two identical multi-piece planes packed in their carry-on luggage, which they assembled in their hotel room after arrival. This was necessary due to the difficulty of transporting an already assembled aircraft in hand luggage.

The team used an innovative hinge made of 3D printed material to attach the plane’s control surfaces to its body – it was a unique aspect of their project that set it apart from other teams’ planes.

“Sometimes you just know when a team will be successful, and that was exactly the case with this team,” Davis says. “Everyone’s ability to work well together, learn new things on their own, and their interest and dedication to the project were all key to its success. There is no doubt in my mind that each of these students will be successful in their future endeavours.

With their runner-up finish, the team received a $500 prize and learned valuable skills by learning how to design an engineered system with advanced manufacturing methods that require a unique set of process and material constraints.

For more information about USI’s Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program, contact Dr. Paul Kuban, President of the Engineering Departmentat [email protected].

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