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Students Learn Engineering Skills While Testing and Flying Remote-Controlled Helicopters

Posted 08/03/2010
Posted by David Isgur

More than 25 students from across the country are learning why and how helicopters work at the University of Hartford and Central Connecticut State University this week, Aug. 1-6, at the "Spin On It" program presented by the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.  The students are testing human-powered helicopter configurations and rotor blades and performing wind tunnel testing of scale model helicopters.
Also, students are learning the latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology through classroom instruction and will actually design and build remote control aircraft that will compete in an obstacle course.

The program's goal is to expose students to practical engineering as opposed to computer simulations, says Al Gates, program director and chair of the engineering department at Central Connecticut State University. The students will work on testing a scale model of the K-MAX helicopter manufacture by Kaman Aerospace and building a human-powered helicopter that can set the world record for longest amount of flying time.

Students will network with aerospace leaders, present their wind tunnel test results to aerospace professionals, tour Sikorsky and KAMAN manufacturing and engineering facilities, and experience a one-hour ride in a Robertson 4-place helicopter (up to 3,000 ft. and 140 mph) during this unique training experience.

One of the helicopter configurations has four rotor-blade hubs and has a 50-foot by 50-foot footprint with four 18-foot diameter rotor blades.  It is so large that it had to be assembled in the indoor track at Central Connecticut State University.  The other test rig is 40 feet long, which includes two rotor blades with 20-foot rotor blade diameters.

The majority of the students at "Spin On It" are college undergraduates, three are high school students from the University High School of Science and Engineering at the University of Hartford and East Haddam High School and two are doctoral candidates.

This is the only program of its kind in the country that focuses on rotary blade flight rather than fixed-wing aircraft.  Instructors for this program include aerospace industry executives and professors from the University of Hartford and Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).

Based at the University of Hartford, the NASA Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium is a NASA supported Space Grant Consortium, made up of Bridgeport University, Central Connecticut State University, Connecticut Colleges of Technology, Eastern Connecticut State University, Fairfield University, Southern Connecticut State University, Trinity College, the Universities of Connecticut, Connecticut Health Center, Hartford, and New Haven, Wesleyan University and Yale University.  The purpose of the Consortium is to encourage research and education in Space/Aerospace Science and Engineering.

For more information on the "Spin On It" program, contact Al Gates at 860.301.2117 (cell) or 860.893.3271.