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JPL Annual 2003 Invention Challenge Results Gallery
Entry 1
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a) What your team thought of the challenge (objective)? This is a great event for everybody. Knowing what it takes to pull a contest like together, we really appreciate all the efforts and sacrifice that Paul McNeal poured into it. We plan to do it again next year.

b) What ideas your team considered? We started with foam airplane kit from hobby shops, then the rubber band powered balsa wood without using the rubber band. Finally, we built our own from scratch with longer wing span using balsa wood.

c) What was your final design? We had two indeed. Because the wing of the very first glider was damaged during a test, we prepared two entries.

The first one was modified from a balsa wood kit. Though, I thought the performance could be better if the wing span is longer.

Therefore, a bigger and longer glider using primarily balsa wood was built from scratch. The fuselage was made of two balsa wood on the sides sandwiching four foam blocks so that we have enough width for the wing (90cm long) to rest on top of it. The top and bottom of the fuselage were taped to reduce drag. The balsa wood elevators and the card paper rudder were inserted into the last foam block. To turn to the right, the paper rudder was curved to the right a bit.

To create the airfoil, the balsa wood was trimmed, sanded and bent a bit. The airfoil simulator software tool, FoilSim, done by Benson in Glenn Research Center had been a great help.

For stability during rolling, the few inches from the ends of the wings were cut and glued at an angle to create the dihedral.

Both gliders had 4-wheel support and V-shaped wire in the front to catch the L-shaped hook on the launcher.

d) What was your testing process and how did you improve? We pretty much just used the launcher that we built for testing. Mainly, we adjusted the rudder and the wing positions.

The lesson we learned was we did not start working on the project till the last 5 weeks. Quite some time were spent on building the launcher and left not much time to really test or adjust the gliders for better performance. Based on the experience from the first glider, the bigger glider was built from scratch only in the last three days.

e) What your team learned at the regional contest (if applicable)? N/A

f) What were your feelings or experiences at the JPL contest? This was the first year we participated. Our whole family really enjoyed the contest even we did not win. We had lunch at JPL and took a quick tour again for the kids.

Especially this year, I want to be part of the centennial celebration of the First Flight in JPL with my sons. Along the way, I want to spend time with them, encourage them to be a handy problem-solver. We had good time when we learned the history of flight and airplane controls together. It is also a great way to get my kids to be excited about accepting a challenge and execute plans to meet the goals.

g) How would your team improve your design? We should have balanced the gliders by holding both sides of the wing about 1/3 from the front edge. It is balanced when the fuselage is level.

However, somehow I thought the way to balance the glider is to tip the fuselage a little bit to the front. I realized concept was wrong on the way home that day. I verified it after we got home.

It actually glided more than 40 feet easily. I knew the bigger glider with the 90 cm wingspan & 114 g mass should have more than enough lift and glide ratio to get to the target. Now we still flow it for fun to enjoy the way it glides in the air.
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