A student team that designed an innovative retractable landing gear system for a light aircraft was selected as the top Mec E 460 team at the twelfth Capstone Awards, presented by the Northern Lights Chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
Mec E 460 is the senior undergraduate mechanical engineering design course. Teams work with an industry partner made up of an individual or business to solve a design problem in the automotive, aeronautics, biomedical, energy, or environmental industries.
Each year four winning Mec E 460 teams are selected to present at the Capstone Awards, with one team chosen to represent the University of Alberta at the Canadian Society of Manufacturing Engineers (CSME) Student Design Competition.
This year’s representative team—comprised of Daryl Campbell, Jacob Dobush, Jared Fehr, Brian Jeffrey, and Nicholas Mintoft—will travel to Winnipeg in June to compete against top student teams from 28 universities across Canada.
“It is a great honour to be chosen to represent the University of Alberta at the national student design competition,” said Campbell.
The team will be following in the footsteps of a long legacy of excellence; over the past six years, U of A teams have placed first four times, second once, and third once.
“I think this track record speaks to the quality of the Mechanical Engineering program at the U of A as well as the demanding nature of Mec E 460,” reflected Campbell.
The team designed their retractable landing gear system for a fellow U of A student with a unique hobby. “Our industry partner was Harry Evans, a third year geology student who, when not studying, spends his time designing and building airplanes,” said Fehr.
“The plane Harry is building is a one-seater, with enough room for a Volkswagen engine, a pilot, and fuel. His goal is to fly across the northern tip of the Atlantic Ocean to Europe,” Fehr said, explaining doing this with such a small fuel reserve requires eliminating as much drag as possible.
“Most small aircraft have fixed landing gear. Our design retracts the landing gear into the very limited space inside the wing, in an effort to reduce drag. This is unusual for small aircraft and the restricted geometry was a major challenge for the design,” explained Dobush.
“The landing gear rotates down and in front of the wing tip in a single motion, it locks in position, and it has an emergency release mechanism in case of power failure,” added Mintoft.
Another design innovation was the use of a curved carbon fiber beam for the main strut of the landing gear. “This was a challenge since carbon fiber properties are far less well understood and have more complicated failure modes. The result is a much lighter design which also helps reduce drag and reduce the overall weight of the plane,” Dobush said, adding the initial inspiration of the strut design was the carbon fiber running prosthesis used by amputee athletes.
“Our curved strut was based on prosthetic legs used by amputees for sprinting because they absorb energy as they bend. We thought it might allow us to save some weight because we would not need a suspension system,” said Mintoft.
“In my opinion, the mechanical systems and the strut design made us stand out from the crowd. We concentrated on making it as simple as possible and came up with an elegant mechanical design.”
The excellence of three other Mec E 460 teams was also recognized at the Capstone Awards. Julia Kramer, Landon Lonsberry, Andrew Neehall, and Marek Zieba who designed a Thermal Pressure Vessel for Baker Hughes received the Thoresten Watterodt Award for Design Creativity.
Devon Dolynchuk, Joel Hubert, Delyana Kyoseva, and Natalie Lauf, who designed an Ulterra Rotational Impact Tool received the Northern Lights Award for Technical Excellence.
Johnston Clark, Mitchell Mueller, Richard Renaud, and Wesley Schroeder received the Universe Machine Corporation Design For Manufacture Award for their design of an Alberta AG Fiber Feeder.
Carlyn McGeean was also awarded the “Bruce A. MacGregor Award.
In addition to being selected to represent the U of A at the design competition, the retractable landing gear system team was also awarded the Precimax Manufacturing Ltd Design for Advanced Manufacture award.
“It is a remarkable feeling to conclude my undergraduate academic journey on such a positive note. I can still recall walking through the halls of the Mechanical Engineering Building in my first year, in disbelief at the quality and complexity of the Mec E 460 posters on the walls,” said Campbell.