Local News

N.C. State Wins National Paper-Winged Glider Competition

Posted April 8, 2003

— Students from North Carolina State University soared to victory in Energy Challenge 2003, a paper-winged glider competition held Saturday at Nags Head, N.C.

The event was held to help commemorate the Wright brothers' pioneering flight 100 years ago.

Seven N.C. State students -- competing against teams from nine other universities -- launched their paper-winged glider from an 80-foot sand dune near Kitty Hawk and swooped to a $15,000 first prize.

The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology, was judged on accumulated flight distance, as well as on written reports, gross weight, material composition, sail area, tear-and-tensile strength, recyclable content, and novelty of design.

The Energy Challenge is intended to encourage innovation, interest in science and engineering, pulp and paper industrial processes, recycling, and waste minimization.

Dr. Richard J. Spontak, faculty sponsor of the NCSU team and professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering, had predicted in February that "Team AeroPack" would do well.

Spontak said the team was motivated by the opportunity to compete where the Wright brothers made history.

"I am very proud of what these students have achieved together," Spontak said, "erasing traditional disciplinary lines, in the dauntless spirit of Kitty Hawk."

Combining several research specialties of N.C. State, the team was made up of chemical engineering students Jody Moss, Daphne Wang, Trey Hathaway and Josh McCall, mechanical engineering student Brandon Teague, pulp and paper science student Bryan Ransom and aerospace engineering student Sarah Mertens.

All the students are seniors, and Mertens is the glider's original pilot.

Due to high-wind conditions, Teague was the glider's pilot on Saturday.

"It was great to know the glider could actually fly," Mertens said. "Even with all the stress on it, the glider withstood the challenge, and the paper didn't tear.

"We learned a lot about paper manufacturing working on this project."

According to Spontak, the project received "tremendous support" for such multidisciplinary design from the departments involved.

"We have demonstrated that young engineers from different disciplines can work together effectively," he said, "not only to achieve a common objective but also to infuse their combined effort with individual strengths, creativity and passions.

Last year, N.C. State teams from the departments of chemical engineering and wood and paper science finished second and third, respectively, in the Energy Challenge's paper-sailboard competition.

Other universities competing in Saturday's event were runner-up Spartan School of Aeronautics and third-place Temple. Also in the competition were North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Western Michigan University, Maine, Central Florida, Miami (Fla.), Savannah College of Art and Design, and Georgia Tech.

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