Cody Howard
School of Engineering

Aerospace student's design earns second place at international competition

Tue, 10/29/2013

LAWRENCE — A 2013 University of Kansas School of Engineering graduate earned international acclaim for his performance in a prestigious aerospace design competition.

Joshua Holland, Pittsburgh, won second place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation’s 2013 Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design Competition. 

Holland teamed up with Steven Brust, a student at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, to design an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of flying at extremely high altitudes. The entry’s formal name is “Extremely Flexible Light-Weight Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Wing: For the Rukh High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).”

“This aircraft has a dual purpose. It can be used for military operations, or as a quick response satellite in the event an observation is needed over a specific region of the world; it can get there quickly,” Holland said. “It has a large wingspan, which is beneficial for performance characteristics. It can flex in order to control the performance of the wing functions.”

Holland designed the aircraft and led the project, with Brust assisting on the structural analysis from the facilities at TU Delft. AIAA allows a team of two students to enter the Individual category. Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering, served as their adviser. Holland attributes his success in large part to the dedication of KU’s aerospace faculty members.

“The professors love their jobs and the aerospace field. They’re passionate and effective, and it’s evident from day one of your freshman year. That passion really enhances the learning experience,” Holland said. “From launching balloon satellites and designing remote-control airplanes, there is an emphasis on hands-on activities from the moment you step on campus. The faculty and the curriculum keep you inspired and challenged the entire time.”

In addition to Holland’s success in this year’s competition, KU has ties to the first- and third-place finishers; both are from TU Delft. Those students were co-advised by Barrett-Gonzalez and Roelof Vos, a faculty member at TU Delft who earned his doctorate at KU in 2010 while studying under Barrett-Gonzalez.

Holland’s achievement marks the third award-winning performance this year for KU in an AIAA competition. Earlier this fall, eight KU aerospace engineering students won first place in AIAA’s Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition, and another group of eight students took second place in AIAA’s Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition. This year’s success continues a long-running tradition of excellence for KU in AIAA student design competitions. KU is among the top institutions in the world in winning and placing in AIAA student design competitions.

“These achievements demonstrate the quality of the complete education aerospace engineering students receive at KU,” said Vicki Johnson, engineer specialist senior at Cessna Aircraft Company. Johnson earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from KU in 1989. “Upon earning their degree, they are ready to enter the work force and be strong contributors. The aviation industry in Kansas and beyond benefit directly from the great job KU faculty and staff do on the fundamentals and on hands-on learning in addition to design.”

The AIAA design competitions allow students to test their creativity and apply what they’ve learned before they graduate.

“Our faculty work very hard to ensure students have a well-rounded knowledge of all aspects of aerospace engineering and can translate that knowledge into real-world applications,” said Z.J. Wang, Spahr Professor of and chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering. “It’s great to see the dedication of our students and faculty pay off by receiving international recognition through our success in these AIAA competitions. It has been an amazing year.”

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