AE Sophomore Design Laboratory

This laboratory is located on the west side of the Missouri S & T campus. The laboratory supports hands-on construction and testing activities taught in AE 180 Introduction to Aerospace Design. Students in this course are required to design and build two aircraft models. One of these models is a free flight aircraft powered by a rubber motor; the other is radio-controlled and powered by a small electric engine. The students conduct work on these models using equipment housed in this lab facility, which includes a launching system, a test stand for measuring engine performance, a weight and balance arrangement, construction workstations, computer stations, and tools & supplies.

Laboratory Setup and Equipment:

Launching system

This launching system is employed by students to perform a guided takeoff maneuver where models can be accelerated from rest to a given liftoff speed. The system is located in a room approximately 20 feet wide by 50 feet long by 12 feet high. This system consists of a launching track, a model-carrier, an arresting setup, and a net. The launching track is constructed from two aluminum sections whose lengths are 18 feet and 11 feet, for a total length of 29 feet. The model-carrier, weighing about 12 pounds, rides down the track on 2-inch hard rubber wheels. A section of latex tubing powers the model-carrier down the track. A Plexiglas top mounted on the cart serves as a platform on which the model can be mounted, adjusted for a given launching angle of attack, and prepared for a takeoff maneuver. At the launching station, the model-carrier is retained in place by the use of an electromagnet. At the other end of the track, a soft material safely absorbs the kinetic energy of the model-carrier. The model is held onto the model-carrier by a support pin, which is connected to the launching station by a string. The model can be released from the model-carrier at any point during the ground run by pulling the support pin. The user, based on the calculated liftoff speed, determines the takeoff distance, and thus the release point. At the release point, the pin is pulled from the model-carrier and the model is free to liftoff and fly to the net, which is hung from the ceiling to the floor, where it is safely caught. Meanwhile, the model-carrier continues on to be stopped by the arresting setup at the end of the launching track.

Construction Workstations

Three construction workstations are available in the laboratory and each station accommodates four students. Included at each of the workstations is a 2'x8' table and four chairs. Aircraft models can be constructed and assembled at the workstations.

Test Stand for Measuring Engine Performance

A test stand is provided for measuring the static thrust of the electric engine. Engine thrust is measured with a load cell, with the readout in pound force. Also included in the setup is a meter that provides the voltage of the power battery, which is supplied to the engine in watts.

Weight and Balance Arrangement

The weight and balance arrangement consists of a 1200-gram scale and associated equipment. Using this arrangement, it is possible to determine the total weight of the models and the position of the longitudinal center of gravity. The scale is also used to determine the weight of individual model components.

Computer Stations

Two computer stations are provided in the laboratory. Several programs are available for use by the students. Microsoft Excel is used to plot data and perform analysis work. Mat-Lab is used to formulate mathematical models that represent experimental data. Design-Foil is an aerodynamic program used to investigate airfoil properties. The drafting programs Auto-Cad and Pro-E are used to make engineering drawings.

Other Equipment, Tools, and Supplies

Laboratory equipment available includes a mercury barometer and thermometer. The various tools are drills, belt sanders, band saw, dremmel, knives, scissors, triangles, and construction pins. Model supplies include glue, balsa, spruce and model covering are available in the laboratory.