ECE Student Helps AIAA Team Soar to Second Place at National Competition
By David Staudacher, UIC
UIC’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student chapter swooped in to capture second place during the annual Mountaineer Collegiate UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Fly-Off Competition sponsored by the AIAA, Cessna Aircraft, and Raytheon Missile Systems at Louis Bennett Field in Jane Lew, West Virginia. Each year, teams from all across the world design, assemble, and fly a remote controlled aircraft to meet the design requirements for a given year’s competition.
The team is comprised of students from multiple areas of engineering, and among the key contributors is Mohamed Eljali, an Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) student from Morocco.
“My contribution was mainly the electrical side of manufacturing an unmanned aerial vehicle,” said Eljali. “I led all of the necessary calculations to determine the exact power for the duration of time required to finish all steps of the competition.”
As the lead electrical engineer of the project, he made sure all of the parts matched the team’s calculations and simulations. Eljail, along with his ECE colleague Bartlomiej Sikora applied their knowledge of electrical engineering circuit analysis and power to achieve the power needed.
“This was a weak point for teams in the competition that could not fly their plane due to under-powered system,” said Eljali. “I was in charge of the overall electronics components and made certain they were working properly.”
His input in the last chance trial was crucial when one of the motors failed to operate due to fuse issues. He put his skills to use when he added a fuse amperes capacity and switched receiver channels between motors and servos to accommodate for power. It was this quick thinking that brought confidence back to the team as they watched the plane fly successfully.
“I was super confident that our plane was the best designed and well maintained in terms of all aspects of engineering,” said Eljali. “I knew our hard work in last two weeks before finals would grant us a successful flying aircraft according to our calculations and simulations. I was really happy that the team did not waste time building an aircraft that did not fly.”
Apart from putting his technical skills to use during a stressful situation, Eljali took much more away from the competition and being part of the student organization.
“I learned a lot from being part of AIAA,” he said. “Besides being introduced to the aerospace industry while attending many conferences, I learned how to work among a diverse team from different backgrounds of engineering and sciences, and to focus on one single goal and achieve it at reasonable time.”
When asked if he would take on a large team project again, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Absolutely, I would do it in a heartbeat now that we achieved second place in this national competition,” he said. “I feel more responsible to share my knowledge and what I learned from my mistakes and experiences with new electrical engineering students. I will follow that tradition here at UIC. When I first joined, I learned from senior members especially Maciek Makowski and Faran Misaghi.”
The AIAA student chapter at UIC is a student run organization primarily dedicated to the study of aerospace and propulsion engineering. The members design and build remote controlled aircrafts, high-powered rockets, and quad-copters for competitions.