LAWRENCE — A team from the University of Kansas School of Engineering has earned top honors in an international aircraft engine design competition.
The team claimed first place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Team Engine Design Competition. Thirteen teams from 11 universities around the world competed, with the top three invited to make an oral presentation at the AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference in July at Salt Lake City.
Teams were challenged to design the engine for a next-generation military training aircraft to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, which has been in use in the United States since the early 1960s.
“AIAA wanted reduced fuel consumption and a lighter weight for the engine,” said Kyle Thompson, student team leader and 2016 aerospace engineering graduate. "Probably one of our biggest challenges with this was how to get the fuel consumption down."
KU’s first-place design solved the challenge by omitting the afterburner, which most supersonic airplanes use to generate extra thrust in high-speed situations. Instead, the team proposed getting the same performance by letting the main engine run at higher temperatures — and using newer materials that can withstand those temperatures — than allowed in current-generation aircraft. The team was composed of six 2016 aerospace engineering graduates. Thompson said each member was able to take the lead on designing a component of the proposed engine.
"It was a very good team balance,” he said. “Everyone had a key role to play."
The team was awarded $500 for its first-place showing.
This win extends KU’s mark of excellence in AIAA design competitions. Jayhawk aerospace engineering has earned more first- and second-place awards than any other academic institution in the world in the history of the competition.
"KU’s aerospace engineering department — more so than other schools — focuses much more heavily on design,” said Thompson, who is now employed at Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works aerospace design facility in Palmdale, California. “The other reason they do well is that the majority of our faculty is very involved in the process. I had the opportunity to work with my main professor on this project, Saeed Farokhi, every week in class – as well as any time he was in his office."
Team members: Daniel Fought; Weiting Liu; Timothy Luna; Zachary Smith; Kyle Thompson (team leader); and Charles Yeo. Saeed Farokhi and Ray Taghavi were the faculty advisers.