Student teams show their design, business skills in Boeing Capstone Project

Nine months of “real world” aircraft planning, designing and execution by undergraduate students culminated recently in the Department of Aerospace Engineering’s Howe Hall atrium in the annual Boeing Senior Capstone Project.

Student with aircraft
A North Carolina A&T participant checks things over on one of the scale aircraft.

Two teams of students from Iowa State and North Carolina A&T State University demonstrated the design and capabilities of custom-built vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) remote-controlled aircraft they planned, designed and built throughout the past academic year. With each team composed of students from both schools, the project focuses on the importance of teamwork and cooperation between different entities in realistic applications mirroring what occurs in industry — where projects may be completed by people in different locations around the nation or around the world, in a compressed time frame. Traditionally, the Iowa State aerospace engineering students handle the aerodynamic and propulsion components of the aircraft, while the North Carolina A&T members take on the mechanical and structural components of the designs.

The program was launched in 2012 and each year features a different scenario for creation of the aircraft. This year’s project was “Container Lifter 2040,” where teams were charged with planning,  designing and flying scale model aircraft capable of picking

Student maneuvering aircraft
The moment of truth, as teams maneuver their aircraft through the drill of transporting scaled 40-foot cargo containers.

up and transporting ISO containers (the large rectangular cargo containers that are transported globally by ship, train and truck) by including probable technologies available in 2040. Objectives included designing a system for minimum total operating cost per pound of cargo transfer, which requires the students to use mathematical calculations and business planning in their designs.

Project initiation occurred in August of 2017, with students traveling to Boeing’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania VTOL facility for the official kickoff. A mid-year Conceptual Design Review of the projects was carried out in November at North Carolina A&T, with the final events at Iowa State April 19, including a two-hour oral presentation, where teams discuss their concepts with Boeing engineers — and a demonstration, with the aircraft required to leave a base, pick up a scaled 40-foot container, transfer it to a warehouse, deliver it, and fly back to base.

Two teams – the Boeing Blue Team and Boeing White Team, enjoyed their time in the spotlight at Iowa State to show off their efforts, with the Blue Team taking the top honor. The team rosters included ISU Team – Blue: Jeffrey Hall (team leader), Elizabeth Berg, Mike Groth, Alex Nielsen, Parker Purcell, Jesse Stufflebeem. ISU Team – White: Alexis Moreno (team leader), Ben Halley, Michael Londergan., Anthony McDill, Todd Nelson, Bailey Young. NCAT Team – Blue: Charles Henry (team leader), Billy Byrd, Jacobi Evans, Arin Long, Jacob Raby, Caleb White, NCAT Team – White: Gregory “Austin” Lamb (team leader), Jaelenn Hayes, Juan Lasanta Garcia, Christina Oden, Aliyah Rivera, Kwame Simmons.

The program is sponsored by Boeing Military Aircraft. Led since its inception by Roger Lacy, Boeing officials oversee the project from beginning to end, and work closely with faculty from both schools. Professor Thomas Gielda and lecturer Patrick Vogel are the ISU faculty representatives, with Professor Shih-Liang Wang at North Carolina A&T.

Boeing Blue Team group photo
The Boeing Blue Team is all smiles after taking top honors.
Boeing White Team group photo
The Boeing White team members pose with their two aircraft.
Cameron Rayburn speaking
Boeing officials and ISU aerospace engineering faculty members address the student teams. Lecturer Cameron Rayburn speaks, while two of the project organizers, Roger Lacy of Boeing (left) and aerospace engineering professor Thomas Gielda look on.