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University of Oklahoma engineering teams field bikes, planes, cars for international competitions

by Silas Allen Published: April 1, 2012

On Thursday afternoon in a University of Oklahoma workshop, Carly Young and her teammates were making final adjustments to a remote-controlled plane they'd built from scratch.

About 30 feet away, another team worked on an off-road vehicle. All around the two teams were bits and pieces of two other vehicles — a race car and a recumbent bicycle — built by other OU student teams.

The teams are a part of OU's School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Young's team is gearing up for Design/Build/Fly, a national collegiate aviation competition sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This year's competition will be April 13-15 in Wichita, Kan.

The other three teams — Sooner Off-Road, Sooner Powered Vehicle and Sooner Racing — all compete in national and international tournaments in their categories. In each contest, teams receive contest requirements months in advance and build vehicles that meet those parameters.

The teams then head to the annual competition where their vehicles compete with those built by other college teams from around the world.

Those requirements change from year to year, meaning each vehicle is unique from one year to the next. For example, Young said, this year's plane is built to carry a payload of eight aluminum bars. Last year, the contest required the planes be able to break down and fit into a piece of standard carry-on luggage.

Young said preparing for the competition is a valuable learning experience. She tends to learn best when she's working with her hands, she said, and the competition affords her that opportunity.

“This is as good as it gets when it comes to aerospace,” she said.

Chase Knowles, one of Young's teammates, said the program allows the team to take what they've learned in class and work on it in greater depth than they would normally be able to. Teams spend most of their waking hours in the workshop, he said — even more than they spend at home.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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