ASU Air Devils fly high at aircraft design competition

July 19, 2021

Duct tape usually comes into play when something isn’t working as intended. But for Arizona State University engineering students competing in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly competition, it signifies the team's well-designed aircraft that flew on the first try.

Duct Tape Overcast — an aircraft that is “built like a steakhouse but handles like a bistro,” according to Air Devils student organization president Daniel Kosednar — flew the team to a career-high 14th place finish during a bumpy 2020–2021 competition year. The ASU Air Devils student organization's aircraft design for the AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition. The Air Devils student organization at Arizona State University earned 14th place at the international 2020-2021 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly competition. The team was challenged to design a remote-controlled aircraft that could deploy and retract a towed sensor in flight. Graphics courtesy of Air Devils Download Full Image

AIAA DBF, sponsored by Raytheon Missiles and Defense, challenges undergraduate and graduate students from universities around the world to apply their skills in a real-world aircraft design experience. The Air Devils team from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU was one of 115 teams invited to create a small, unmanned, radio-controlled electric aircraft for the competition.

Each aircraft must meet strict requirements and complete flight missions that change from year to year, requiring a new design and build for each competition. This year’s challenge was to design, build and fly an aircraft with a towed sensor that must complete missions to deploy, operate and recover the sensor.

“I’m very happy with Air Devils once again placing deep in the upper quartile of teams,” said Timothy Takahashi, a professor of practice of aerospace engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the six Fulton Schools, who advises the Air Devils student organization. “We were very happy that we placed ahead of a number of historically strong teams, notably our Pac-12 rivals at the University of Southern California.”

Overcoming challenges

Along with Kosednar, an aerospace engineering senior, the team includes propulsion designer Maxwell Stauffer, an aerospace engineering senior; stability and control designer Kevin O’Brien, an aerospace engineering senior; subsystems designer Jack Griffin, now an aerospace engineering graduate student at ASU; structures designer Ivan Pesqueira, a mechanical engineering senior; and electrical systems designer Nitish Chennjou, a computer science sophomore.

Among the team members who graduated this past spring were pilot and chief builder Evan Draganchuk, who recently completed his bachelor’s degree in aviation management technology with a focus on unmanned aerial systems; and wing designers Evan Barker and Derek Stratton, who both graduated with their bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering.

All nine of the Air Devils team members had competed before in the Design/Build/Fly competition. However, this year posed new challenges as distancing requirements made the work more difficult throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to completely change how we ran meetings and designed the aircraft,” Kosednar said. “Our computer-aided design model was one of those key areas.”

The team used CAD digital models in previous competitions, but relied more on physical prototyping and iterating on the design as they went.

“But this year we only had the time to build one aircraft,” Kosednar said. “So, all the work done virtually was critical to catch errors and clashes before we started construction.”

The team encountered several design challenges along the way, including space constraints, manufacturing concerns and reliability, especially in the design of the retractable sensor component.

In their most challenging mission, the team had to lower a sensor contained within the body of the aircraft on a tether and tow it for 10 minutes. The team created a winch mechanism to lower and raise the sensor from the “bomb bay” compartment.

“Making sure the sensor deployed, flew with stability and retracted reliably was my number one goal for this aircraft,” Kosednar said. “When we got that system to work in flight, it was one of the highlights of this year’s competition.”

Air Devils also set themselves apart from the other teams with Duct Tape Overcast’s complex wing design.

“What’s unique about our aircraft is that it has a complex custom wing designed for optimal flying qualities and efficiencies,” Kosednar said. “Most other teams use a simple constant airfoil ‘Hershey bar,’” or a standard rectangular wing.

According to Griffin, the team’s well-developed design skills were key to their biggest success.

“In our first test flight, our plane flew perfectly and did so just how the numbers said it should fly,” Griffin said.



Putting their work to the test

AIAA’s in-person flyoff event in Tucson, Arizona, was canceled due to the pandemic, so instead teams flew their aircraft at their home locations and submitted recorded videos of the flights. Typically the in-person event is a highlight of the competition for many participants, but they were still able to see their peers’ work by connecting virtually.

Each team tackled the design challenges in unique ways — Kosednar particularly liked the Ohio State University’s design for their Maverick aircraft (all video submissions can be viewed on the 2021 AIAA Design/Build/Fly YouTube playlist).

Kosednar says he enjoys the creativity that aerospace engineering allows for solving complex challenges, an aspect that was on display from the teams who participated in AIAA DBF.

“There are dozens of unique solutions to the challenges we were presented, each resulting in a totally different plane, and each formulated by a dedicated team just like us,” Kosednar said.

Griffin added, “It is always cool to see a design we did not choose or something we never thought of flying. It makes us think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe they made that work,’ or ‘Ah! I wish we thought of that.’”

A 14th-place standing means the Air Devils aren't finished with the competition, and the team members who are still ASU students are eager to participate again.

After a successful flight and executing the missions, the team is on the right track to continue to climb in the ranks. However, they had a middling score for the required design report, so the students will be working to hone their technical writing in addition to their engineering skills.

“There are dozens of small details that make the difference between an aircraft that performs and one that excels,” Kosednar said. “I’m proud of how the team incorporated lessons learned in previous years’ competitions into this year’s aircraft. I can’t wait to see what they do next year.”

Building critical skills

The AIAA DBF competition is a valuable opportunity for students to apply skills they learn in the classroom.

“We’re using both math directly out of the textbook and industry knowledge passed down as well as other important literature not circulated in classes,” Griffin said. “You really can’t get a more accurate facsimile of real aircraft production anywhere else outside of industry.”

These unique, relevant experiences outside of typical school projects are also great resume-builders. Both Griffin and Kosednar secured internships based on the experience they gained in Air Devils and AIAA DBF.

“Being in a club like Air Devils that competes in competitions like the AIAA DBF is how you gain practical engineering experience, whether that be the tools like CAD and manufacturing or nontechnical aspects like effective teamwork, public speaking and work ethic,” Kosednar said. “The experiences I gained in the DBF competition helped me gain my dream internship, and, hopefully, a job, with Lockheed Martin in the conceptual design group, where I get to formulate solutions to the same problems, just at a much larger scale.”

A research foundation for club success

Takahashi doesn’t only advise the Air Devils student organization. He also mentors students in flight-related research through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, known as FURI.

“I augment club activities with specifically targeted FURI projects, which gather fundamental data useful in the execution of any particular design,” he said. “The FURI projects helped train students to do some pretty sophisticated testing and get a good practical database of how off-the-shelf motors and building materials work in the real world.”

In the last few years, five Air Devils team members have worked on FURI projects.

Aerospace engineering senior Max Stauffer studied how to measure the thrust of an engine from in-flight instrumentation.

Another aerospace engineering senior Kevin O’Brien learned how to build an airplane that is stable in smooth and turbulent air by refining aerodynamic configuration.

Ivan Pesqueira, a mechanical engineering senior, conducted an experiment to test the strength of carbon fiber tubes for supporting unmanned aircraft.

Aerospace engineering graduate student Jack Griffin researched computational methods for structural design as a senior undergraduate student.

And Nitish Chennjou, a computer science sophomore, developed a flight instrumentation system.

“With five independent FURI projects working the fundamentals, the team really did a great job putting a design together, harmoniously merging aerodynamics, propulsion and structural design in an absolutely crazy environment,” Takahashi said.

With FURI projects spanning the academic terms in 2020 and spring 2021, and facing social distancing conditions, it was a difficult time to be working on research and their competition aircraft.

“Nitish was remote in California and would regularly mail his custom-designed electronics circuits and embedded controllers to and from the teams,” Takahashi said. “Even the Arizona-based team was not physically co-located.”

Past Air Devils president Nikolay Kolesov, an aerospace engineering major who graduated in 2019 and is now pursuing an aerospace engineering master’s degree at Georgia Technical Institute, built tools for modeling an aircraft wing structure that was the basis for the 2020–2021 design.

“These FURI projects of the past become footstones to a successful design, allowing us to build on prior arts,” Griffin said.

With this behind-the-scenes work through other Fulton Schools programs, Takahashi says he can run the Air Devils organization “as a coach with a light touch” and credits team president Kosednar for leading the team to success during the pandemic.

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Forks up for Tokyo Olympic Games

July 19, 2021

3 current students among 20 Sun Devil athletes who will be competing for gold in a variety of sports

They may have been delayed a year, but Arizona State University is ready to go for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23.

There are 20 Sun Devil athletes competing in Tokyo, representing 14 countries in six sports. Three Olympians — Jorinde van Klinken, Leon Marchand and Jarod Arroyo — are current students.

In addition to these current and former Sun Devil athletes, volunteer ASU swim coaches Hali Flickinger and Allison Schmitt will be competing on the U.S. swim team in Tokyo. It’s the second Olympics for Flickinger, who finished seventh in the 200-meter butterfly in 2016, and the fourth Games for multi-medalist Schmitt, who won bronze in 2008 (4x200 free relay), three golds (200 free, 4x100 and 4x200 free relays) and silver (400 free) in 2012, and gold (4x200 free relay) and silver (prelims swimmer for 4x100 free relay) in 2016.

ASU head swimming coach Bob Bowman will be on the coaching staff for USA Swimming. He served as the Olympic team’s head coach in 2016 and has been an assistant Olympic coach in 2004, 2008, 2012 and this year. Bowman, named ASU head coach in 2015, coached Michael Phelps to 28 Olympic medals over five Games from 2000–16.

RELATED: More info on the athletes | ASU athletes at the 2016 Rio Games

Here's a look at this year's athletes:

Promise Amukamara

Nigeria, basketball

Amukamara played for ASU women's basketball from 2011 to 2015. She is the first ASU women’s basketball player to play in the Olympics. She played in every one of ASU's 131 games between 2012–15, recording starts in 97 of those contests. Amukamara is sixth place on ASU's all-time steals list and third in career steals in NCAA Tournament games. She was selected by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2015 draft, the year she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jarod Arroyo

Jarod Arroyo

Puerto Rico, swimming, 200- and 400-meter individual medleys

Arroyo is a current ASU redshirt freshman majoring in exercise and wellness. He won gold in the 400-meter medley at the Puerto Rico International Swimming Open in May; his time of 04:16.63 set a Puerto Rican record.

Chris Benard

United States, track and field, triple jump

Benard was a member of ASU track and field from 2010 to 2012. He earned eight All-America honors from 2011–13. He broke ASU’s indoor triple jump mark and won the Pac-12 triple jump. Benard finished 16th at the Rio Games with a jump of 16.55. He graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

Richard Bohus

Hungary, swimming, 100-meter backstroke

Bohus swam for ASU from 2013 to 2017. He has ASU's second-fastest 100- and 200-meter backstroke times. Bohus graduated summa cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. He competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, placing ninth in the 4x100 medley relay and 24th in the 100-meter freestyle in Rio.

Paul Casey

England, golf

Casey played for ASU from 1997 to 2000. He won three straight Pac-12 titles (1998–2000). Casey has three PGA Tour wins and earned his 15th European Tour victory earlier this year.

Carlota Ciganda

Spain, golf

Ciganda was a member of ASU women's golf from 2008 to 11. She helped ASU win the 2009 NCAA title as a freshman and made conference history as the first to win back-to-back Pac-10 championships with titles in 2009 and 2010 and then finished third in 2011. Ciganda was the British Amateur champion in 2007. She finished 39th at the Rio Olympics.

ASU golfers

Four former members of the ASU women's golf team will compete in Tokyo. From left: Anna Nordqvist, Carlota Ciganda, Giulia Molinaro and Azahara Munoz.

Dallas Escobedo

Mexico, softball

Escobedo was a pitcher for ASU softball from 2011 to 2014. She has one national championship and three trips to the Women’s College World Series under her belt. She had a 115-26 record (.815) and a 2.01 career ERA. Escobedo is second in ASU history in wins (115) and strikeouts (1,222). She graduated in 2015 with a double major in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and special education from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and in 2017 with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, also from the Teachers College.

MORE: More than a game for Sun Devil softball Olympians

Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales

Mexico, softball

Shortstop Gonzales played for ASU from 2014 to 2017. She led the Sun Devils in 2017 with a .353 batting average and 13 home runs and started all 53 games played. She finished her career sixth on the ASU home run list (44) and seventh on the RBI list (183). Gonzales graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Leon Marchand

France, swimming, 200-meter butterfly, 200- and 400-meter IM

Marchand will be a freshman at ASU this fall, majoring in computer science, and he is the current French record holder in the 400-meter individual medley. His parents both competed for France in the Olympics.

Lena Mihailovic

Australia, water polo

Mihailovic was on ASU's water polo squad from 2015 to 2018. She had 131 goals, finishing her career in the top 10 in program history. She played for Australia in the 2017 FINA World Championship. Mihailovoc graduated cum laude in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Giulia Molinaro

Italy, golf

Molinaro was a Sun Devil golfer from 2008 to 2012, where she was the 2012 Pac-12 Golfer of the Year, only the fourth Sun Devil to earn the honor. She graduated magna cum laude in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in tourism development and management from Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. She tied for 53rd at the Rio Games.

Azahara Munoz

Spain, golf

Munoz golfed at ASU from 2005 to 2009. The 2008 NCAA champion earned the title with a 25-foot putt on the first playoff hole. She led ASU to the NCAA team title in 2009, the year she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Munoz finished 21st at the Rio Games.

Christabel Nettey

Christabel Nettey

Canada, track and field, long jump

Nettey was on the ASU track and field team from 2010 to 2013. The 2011 Pac-10 champion in the long jump finished second at the 2013 NCAA Championships and is a three-time long jump All-American. She holds the second-best long jump in school history with a mark of 21-07.25. Nettey graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies  from the College of Integrative Sciences ans Arts. She finished 11th at the Rio Games.

Anna Nordqvist

Sweden, golf

Nordqvist played for ASU from 2006–08, where she was the Pac-10 co-champion and the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2007. She has eight LPGA Tour wins and three victories on the Ladies European Tour. Norqvist won the 2009 LPGA Championship and finished 11th at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Anna Olasz

Hungary, swimming,10K open water

Olasz swam for ASU from 2013 to 2017 and graduated magna cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in business communication from the W. P. Carey School of Business. She placed 14th in the 10K open water event at the 2016 Olympics.

Sashel Palacios

Mexico, softball

Palacios played softabll at ASU from 2014–17, hitting .322 in her senior year and starting all 53 games. She earned Pac-12 All-Defensive honors in 2015 and was the Pac-12 Player of the Week on March 28, 2017. Palacios graduated cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in 2019 with a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Jon Rahm

Spain, golf

Rahm golfed for the Sun Devils from 2012 to 2016. He won 11 collegiate events at ASU in that span and has since won six times on the PGA Tour, including his first major at the 2021 U.S. Open. Rahm graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College. Tokyo is his first Olympics.

Jon Rahm

The 2021 U.S. Open champion, John Rahm played for ASU at the 2016 NCAA Division I men's golf championship.

Fanny Teijonsalo

Finland, swimming, 50-meter freestyle

Teijonsalo was a member of the ASU swim team from 2017 to 2018 after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has the second-, third- and seventh-best ASU records in the 50-meter freestyle, the third- and seventh-best in the 100-meter freestyle, and four of the top 10 Sun Devil scores in the 100-meter butterfly. She graduated magna cum laude in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jorinde van Klinken

Jorinde van Klinken

Netherlands, track and field, discus

Van Klinken, a current ASU graduate student in global management, took the world lead and broke the Dutch discus record in spring 2021, days before the NCAA West preliminaries. She went on to win NCAA gold in the discus. She was the Pac-12 Women’s Field Athlete of the Year in 2021, after her first season with ASU.

Rowie Webster

Australia, water polo

Webster played for ASU water polo in 2006. Her 63 goals and 82 points that year put her at the top of ASU’s freshman record books. She placed sixth at the 2016 Olympics and earned the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.

Kelsey White qualified to play water polo for South Africa but announced on July 14 that she would not be playing for COVID-19 reasons.

Top photo: ASU alumnus Chris Benard, shown here competing in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London, will be representing the United States in Tokyo in the triple jump. Photo by Omar Mota/ASU