University degree courses in engineering subjects provide an excellent technical and theoretical basis for students wishing to embark upon a career in the engineering or aviation industry. However, it is often the case, that universities lack the facilities to allow students to gain practical experience working on meaningful design, manufacturing and operational projects. This is particularly so in aviation where full size aircraft projects demand large and expensive facilities if the projects are to be realistic. Although it is perfectly feasible for students to undertake aircraft design projects, these will inevitably feel incomplete unless they result in a real flying machine. The University Challenge Competitions are intended to fill this gap, whilst at the same time providing the framework for a compulsive, enjoyable and competitive experience.
Although the competitions centre on the design, manufacture and demonstration of model aircraft, the aim is to relate this, as far as possible, to the activities and processes that would be used in a full-size machine. To this end the competing aircraft have to perform a genuine operational task in terms of payload, power plant type, etc. Furthermore the aerodynamic and structural design of the aircraft must be properly assessed in order to predict operational performance, and this assessment has to be presented in the form of a design report and design drawings.
The project is intended to be carried out by A STUDENT OR GROUP OF STUDENTS, and this gives them valuable experience operating as a team in much the same way as they will ultimately have to do in their industrial careers. Furthermore, they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their presentation skills when they give a short talk about their machine. The importance of the presentation should not be overlooked, as valuable points can be gained. In past years we have noted that teams often miss this opportunity to gain additional points.
It is not intended that teams entering the competition are necessarily studying aeronautics and indeed many of the past winners have come from universities that do not have an aeronautical engineering faculty. Many students are undecided on their ultimate career direction when they embark upon a university course and it is the experience gained at university that will often point them in a particular direction. The competitions provide such experience in aviation technology and this may provoke an interest in aviation that might otherwise not arise.
It is important that all competitors read the rules carefully in order to fully understand the task which has been set.
It is very strongly recommended that the help of an experienced aero modeller is enlisted from the very start. Local contacts are available from the BMFA office.