The challenge for the Real World Design Challenge for high school students was simple yet very complex: design and program an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to search for an injured and immobilized child in a search area that was a little more than 12.5 square miles.
The team from Mountain View High School, comprised of students in the engineering class, defeated 18 other teams across the state to win the Aeronautical Engineering state competition last month. They are now preparing to compete against at least 30 other teams in the national challenge in April, which will take place in Washington D.C.
The team of six students, Sade Nabahe, Issac Hermosillo, David Ogden, Taylor Parra, Charlotte Mitchell, and Anthony Del Castillo, is led and coached by Mountain View teacher Robert Kennerly.
“They had to do all of the calculations,” Kennerly said. “They had to do the mission planning and price it out for 50 missions. They tried to have the lowest cost and the lowest time to find the child.”
The team began working on the challenge in November and submitted their presentation on Jan. 18. The top four teams were selected to then give their presentations in Prescott to engineers from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Some of the biggest challenges for the team were learning how to use the software that was provided by the contest organizers and understanding the aerodynamic properties of a plane and how it exactly works.
Taylor Parra, a junior at Mountain View and who is on the team, agreed that there was a steep learning curve with the design process, but once that was out of the way, the team was able to optimize their design and plan one component at a time.
“We would try to optimize one particular aspect of the design,” Parra said. “We started with our cameras for the UAV and then we worked from there and kind of built everything around the cameras. We had to design a plane that would do what we wanted it to do.”
A plane wasn’t the group’s first design. The students had considered using a blimp over a glider-type design, which the team settled on do to load capacity and maneuverability.
In preparation for the national competition, the challenge has be changed slightly. They are still looking for a child in a two-mile radius area, but now about a third of the search area has tall trees and about a quarter of the search area has short trees.
The team is refining the UAV design, sensors, search patterns and the altitude the UAV will fly at.
“We are just trying to be 100 percent sure with our design and make sure it holds water in every aspect so any questions that we are asked at the national convention we’ll be able to answer them and know what we are talking about,” Parra said.
For fellow classmate and team member Sade Nabahe, who is a senior, she was happy with simply finishing the project with a solid design.
“We were just happy finishing the project to begin with,” Nabahe said. “It turns out that we did very well, so we are really excited to go to nationals.”
For a first-time team, the students at Mountain View High School have achieved a lot and earned every bit of recognition.
“They are very hard working and diligent,” Kennerly said. “They work really well together. They weren’t satisfied with just completing it – this was our first year doing the competition – they pushed themselves to be better.”