CU-Boulder students sweep engineering awards

If you go

What: Aerospace Engineering Design Symposium

When: Today, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: CU’s Discovery Learning Center


University of Colorado engineering students swept first, second and third place at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region V Student Conference for the second consecutive year.

A group of eight aerospace engineering seniors took first with their hybrid aircraft engine, named Helios, and will attend the national championship in Tennessee in January.

“It’s like a Toyota Prius in the sky,” said Carol Rowe, director of communications for CU’s Engineering and Applied Sciences program.

The winning team, Solstice, and nine other student projects (including the second and third place AIAA winners) will present their works at CU’s second annual Aerospace Engineering Design Symposium Friday in the Discovery Learning Center.

Gavin Kutil, an aerospace engineering senior and Solstice team leader, said the project is much more than a senior capstone grade for the students involved.

“One of the strong aspects of this program is that we get in there and learn things you can’t learn in a lecture hall or a classroom,” Kutil said. “We’re even working on getting one of our ideas patented. That’s something we’re all excited to put on a resume.”

Solstice took on the Helios project in August, which was an idea that came from a senior group last year. This year’s team added a control system and an in-flight remote restart capability to the existing engine.

“Now you can use only the electric motor, only the combustion motor or both,” Kutil said. “And we made it to where you can start the combustion engine in mid-air, something that’s never been done before.”

A graduate student group will present their aircraft with the Solstice team’s hybrid engine. The two were designed with one another in mind, providing spectators with an overall concept of the hybrid aircraft.

The Halo team took second place with their portable and reusable rocket-launch system.

Third place winners, EPICSat, will present their satellite component at Friday’s symposium.

Erin Tucker, EPICSat team leader and aerospace engineering senior, said the team is winding down from a busy year, but isn’t quite finished yet.

“There’s always going to be a little pressure,” Tucker said. “We’re wrapping up the last-minute details, but we don’t have much left to do.”

University administrators said the awards and high-quality projects designed by students continue to prove the success of the CU aerospace and engineering programs.

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