Minot students best state in design challenge

A six-member team from Minot High School received a trophy from first lady Betsy Dalrymple Wednesday for being the state champions in the Real World Design Challenge.

Team members Matthew Winburn, Dylan Morris, Logan Pietsch, Manuel Marquardt, Reed Moseng and Josie Bexell went to Washington, D.C., to represent North Dakota with their concept of an airframe that would autonomously search for and recognize a simulated lost hiker. Morris, who had also competed in the contest the previous year, said Minot High didn’t place at the national contest, but placed higher than it had in 2012. They competed against more than 40 schools from across the country, some of which were specialty schools with classes focusing on design.

Minot’s team used computer-aided design software provided by the company but had to come up with their own unique design for the plane, choosing fuselage, wings, and an airfoil. Each member of the team worked on a different part of the project. They got together about once a week. Teams also had to submit an engineering design notebook that included the business plan and appendices.

In their design plan, the team noted that the design plan that made the most sense to them was to fly in a slowly outward spiraling circle to the outer frames of the search area and back to the center again. They got the idea from watching a “Roomba” robotic vacuum cleaner that is supposed to clean floors. The unmanned craft would have cameras in each wingtip and work together to search a massive area on the ground. If one camera detects an object, the camera mounted just behind the engine would zoom in and identify the object as either a person or another shrub.

The team estimated that the initial setup cost of their system would be $98,319.81; the hourly cost would be about $625 per hour and the amortized price per mission would be $7,591.40.

The students worked with mentors.

Joshua Simmers, aviation projects manager for the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, said they were impressed with Minot’s team.

“We were impressed that the students came up with their own method of providing emergency services balancing cost and effectiveness,” Simmers wrote. “They had original ideas in engineering, how to utilize different cameras for different parts of the process, and an original search pattern. It was exciting to see them in action and evolution of their ideas.”

Morris said the team had to make a few alterations before entering their winning design in the national contest.

Several of the team members said they would like to pursue related career fields.

Minot High will enter the contest again next year, said adviser Julia Koble. Koble said the design students are required to create will be different next year. The contest focuses on the most up-to-date technology. Koble said drone planes are currently in the news, which is probably why this was the subject of this year’s contest.