3D Designs Put to the Test

By Tina Kalenits

Youngstown State University students might have noticed 3D-printed gliders flying across the Watson and Tressel Training Site on Feb. 1 as teams came together to design gliders and competed for the longest airtime.

Teams were responsible for creating their gliders variant in size and design, closely resembling a paper airplane.

David Irwin is a senior mechanical engineering major and president of YSU’s student branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, abbreviated as AIAA. He said the event, called “Gliding Around the WATTS,” gave students the chance to experience 3D printing, especially aircraft.

“It’s like a paper airplane, but it’s the 3D-printing material, so they’re sturdier. … They won’t bend if they hit the ground a certain way. They have three tries, and [it’s] a way of experiencing the new upcoming fad,” he said.

Irwin said he hopes this event will be recurring so students and faculty can continue to improve their glider techniques and skills.

“We’re hoping to make this a yearly event that people can take their previous gliders and maybe make some adjustments to them in the future to make them better based on what worked in the last,” he said.

Teams went one by one, each getting three tries to get the longest airtime. Gliders were also judged on the best-looking design. 

Kevin Disotell, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the faculty advisor for YSU’s AIAA chapter, said the idea for the event came from AIAA students who were interested in the aerospace industry and looking for ways to get involved.

Disotell said YSU has a lot of 3D-printing resources and “Gliding Around the Watts” was an impactful way to connect aerospace careers and resources to campus.

“This event [was] open to the entire campus community, art students, engineering and science students. … It’s important particularly to the engineering students because what engineers do is design, and having hands-on experiences like this are impactful,” he said.

Disotell said the event also acts as a recruitment event for AIAA.

“Our student branch relies upon having national student members who were members of our professional society. … They can take that into their career,” Disotell said. “And so we’re trying to grow our branch, grow our brand.”

A participant in the 3D-printed glider competition propels a glider in the Watson and Tressel Training Site on Feb. 1. Photo by Collin Headley/Jambar TV

Joe Ciarniello, a senior mechanical engineering major, is a national member of AIAA and said this is a warmup event for the University of Texas 3D Printed Aircraft Competition.

“Our goal is to be able to compete, see how other people have designed any gliders,” Ciarniello said. “See where we are in terms of how long our flights are going. We’ve been doing some flight testing, but it’ll be nice to get inside.” 

Disotell said the student branch became officially chartered by AIAA in January 2018 and “Gliding Around the WATTS” is its first event.

“Our goal is to get as much exposure with AIAA-YSU to get more students involved. Spread the word that our aerospace studying is higher than some people think; a lot of people don’t realize that,” Ciarniello said.

AIAA documented the gliders and teams and Eric Sullivan, a senior mechanical engineering major, won first place. 

“3D printing is a big hobby of mine, but also AIAA is a big organization in mechanical engineering,” Sullivan said. “And my friends are officers in the organization. So I wanted to support them and also just get involved in 3D printing mechanical engineering at same time.”

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