The 2018 Boeing/Aerospace Engineering


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Some of the excited 2017 participants!

(Updated 12/21/2017, updated batter data)


The WSU Aerospace Engineering department annually sponsors an aircraft design competition. The goal is to encourage involvement in a fun and educational activity.

This year The Boeing Company is supporting the competition with $10,000 in prize money!

Competing teams design and build a small electric-powered aircraft to fly a challenging mission. Undergraduate winners get their names on the Bronze Propeller Trophy. The ninth competition will be held in early May 2018.

There are three participant categories:

  • WSU Undergraduate (1st Place $3,000, 2nd Place $2,000, & 3rd Place $1,000)
  • High School (1st Place $1,500, 2nd Place $1,000, & 3rd Place $500)
  • Professional (1st Place $1,000)

Teams with an alumni or graduate student member participate in the professional category. High school or undergraduate teams cannot elect to compete in the professional category.

A successful design is well understood and properly developed from the beginning. Don’t let someone create a better overall design. Use aerospace engineering principles and methods to win!

Don't be shy. Form a team, build a plane, and fly! Mentors for high school and undergraduate student teams are recommended. Contact Dr. Miller for help finding a mentor. 



This year's design competition is for “An Aerial Reforestation UAV."

Aerial reforestation is a concept were tree seedlings are dropped from an aircraft to quickly plant new forests. Each seedling is contained in a dart-like, degradable, container with nutrients and soil. If delivered as desired, the seedlings land on the ground in a well-distributed pattern and grow into a fine-looking forest.

The aircraft’s mission profile includes the following: 

  • Preflight, including weighing, structural check, and takeoff
  • Fly at least 5-laps total
  • Deliver the seedlings
  • Land successfully



All aircraft and participant categories must meet the following rules, requirements, and constraints:

  • The aircraft must be 100% conceived, designed, and built by team members
  • The vehicle must be fixed-wing (rotary wing aircraft are not allowed)
  • The plane will use a single specified LiPo battery pack to operate all systems
  • The battery pack cannot be modified (only wire connectors can be changed)
  • A single, exposed, and easy to access fuse is required to safe the motor
  • The fuse must be located at least 6-inches from anything dangerous
  • Teams have 5-minutes to complete preflight and launch once called
  • Aircraft may need to be registered with the FAA prior to a first flight
  • A WSU designated test pilot will fly the plane?
  • Autopilot or other control systems are allowed, only after the team safely demonstrates mission completion using a human pilot and a "crew of two"
  • Planes flying without autonomous control systems must carry a crew of two (simulated by two tennis balls)
  • Planes flying with an autonomous control system may extract the crew of two (simulated by two tennis balls)
  • All aircraft components must remain attached during a mission
  • The designated competition pilot is the only person who can send commands to the plane
  • The craft can use only one transmitter (TX) and one receiver (RX)
  • The plane must fly with and drop at least 10 seedlings during a mission
  • The seedlings can’t be dropped prior to completing the second turn of lap one
  • Seedlings are simulated using “Official Nerf N-Strike Elite Series Darts
  • No other darts are allowed
  • The darts cannot be modified in any way
  • The darts must fall independently (e.g., not as a bundle)
  • Mission scores are not counted for aircraft sustaining significant flight damage
  • Aircraft can be repaired and flown again, as long as all rules are satisfied
  • All competition rules, requirements, constraints, and award related aspects are subject to interpretation and change, at anytime, at Dr. Miller’s discretion
  • Review all sections of this web page regularly, especially the Q&A’s
  • Team members assume all risk with respect to disqualification

There are no further requirements or constraints for Professional teams. High School and Undergraduate team aircraft must also meet the following requirements and constraints: 

  • The required fuse rating can not exceed 25-amps
  • Aircraft must be made from commonly available model aircraft materials (e.g., balsa wood, basswood, spruce, foam) – nothing exotic
  • Source wood thicknesses are constrained to 1/32, 1/16, 3/32, or 1/8-inches (nothing more)
  • Use of composite components (e.g., graphite tubes or skins) is not allowed
  • Use of aluminum tubes (e.g., arrow shafts) is not allowed
  • Use of more than 1-oz of mixed Epoxy for aircraft construction is forbidden
  • The use of any type of tape to secure or cover anything is prohibited
  • All critical systems/components must be firmly mounted and accessible for quick repair or replacement (< 5-min)
  • Velcro may be used to secure only the battery, Electronic Speed Control (ESC), receiver (RX), and wires (nothing else)
  • RX channels are limited to 8-total - 1 for an autopilot, 1 for the ESC, 6 for servos (Note: an unused autopilot slot may not be reallocated to servo use)
  • Bomb-bay doors or fall-away panels are not allowed; the darts must be released directly into the airstream
  • Aircraft changes, during the competition, that deviate significantly from the initial design configuration are not permitted

Competition Day, Flying Location, Preflight, & Drop Zone

There will be one competition day, likely Sunday, May 6th, from noon to 4pm. The exact competition location will be announced in the spring. Planes are expected to fly within an approximately 400x100-ft area at all times. The takeoff, landing, and drop zone is in the middle of the course, with turns approximately 300-ft apart.

Preflight is a critical part of the competition. Teams, once called, have 5-minutes to: show the plane is fully loaded; be weighed; pass a structural test (show the plane can be supported by just the wing tips without breaking); and takeoff.

Competition day takeoffs and landings are from a grass field, not from a prepared hard-surface runway.

The drop zone will be marked using construction marker tape. Its size will be roughly 5-ft wide and 100-ft long, with ten 5x10-ft subsections. The goal is to drop a nice line of seedlings (darts) over the drop zone’s length.


Scoring Equations

The mission score (MSCR) is calculated, when successful, using the following equation,           

M =  (5/W) + (300/MT) + PE + AB

Where the weight (W) is the fully loaded ready-to-fly weight in pounds. (See Q&A #5 added 12/6/17)

The Mission Time (MT), in seconds, starts the moment the plane is launched and ends when the plane comes to a stop after mission completion. The value is rounded to the nearest second.

The Planting Efficiency (PE) value is the number of drop zone subsections that contain an ideal number of seedlings (darts) at mission end. For proper growth and effective reforestation, it is desirable to have only one seedling in each zone. As a result, if three (3) or more seedlings land in a zone it will not count toward the PE value (added in the 9/13/17 update).

The final resting place of the darts determines the PE score. The darts can land, bounce, or blow into (or out of) the drop zone prior to recording the results.

The Automation Bonus (AB) is based on the level of autonomy employed during the mission, not counting takeoff and landing:

AB=10, if the plane’s flight and payload delivery is automated
AB=5, if just the payload delivery is automated
AB=2, if just the plane’s flight is automated
AB=0. If no automation is used

The competition-designated pilot will fly all takeoffs and landings and serve as a safety pilot (taking over if needed).

The team score is calculated as,

TSCR  = M – S

Where M is the team’s best mission score from all competition flights. “S” is the total number of “strikes” incurred by the team during the entire competition. The highest TSCR wins!



A team strike is given if the team or aircraft:

  • Fail to complete preflight and fly within the 5-minute window
  • Fails to drop the minimum number of darts
  • Drops a dart prior to completing the first two turns of lap-one
  • Flies less than 5 complete laps
  • Leaves the designated flying area

Obviously, you should avoid receiving strikes at all cost. A good team effectively utilizes sound design methods, engineering principles, good construction techniques, and preparation to achieve mission success.

Don’t undervalue the beauty of simplicity within all efforts.

Keep in mind that proper engineering is not about trial and error or playing around until you discover something that works. Try very hard to keep a zero strike count. Employ engineering concepts and prepare to win!


Battery Pack

All competitors (high school/undergraduate/professional) are required to use a:

  • Great Planes ElectriFly LiPo 3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C Star battery pack (click here for a link) or
  • Any other LiPo 3S 11.1V battery of 850mAh or less capacity (updated with more data on 12/21/17)

You can use only one pack and it cannot be modified (except for connector changes as desired).

Use the attached WSU Great Planes ElectriFly LiPo 3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C Star battery pack test data during your design efforts to assure you meet vehicle and mission performance goals. Click here to get the data.

Note - the Great Planes ElectriFly LiPo 3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C Star battery may no longer be available for purchase. However, WSU acquired a large number of Great Planes ElectriFly LiPo 3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C Star batteries allready. These are really good batteries. They will be available to competitors on a first-come-first serve basis. In any case, you may want to consider another pack of the same general specification or smaller. This option is a good way to play it safe and to perhaps reduce vehicle weight. (Changes added in 9/13/17 update.)


Dart Information 

As was mentioned previously, seedlings are simulated using “Official Nerf N-Strike Elite Series Darts.” Basic information on the darts is available by clicking this link (here). (This section was added 9/13/17).



For high school and undergraduate teams, the AE department might be able to supply components to build planes. Here is basic information on the most commonly utilized Receiver (RX), Engine Speed Control (ESC), servos, and autopilot systems:

There are other (riskier) options, but we typically have these recommended components available to use.


Department Support & Mentors

The planes will be relatively inexpensive to build. Some teams may be eligible for limited AE department assistance to help build their plane (e.g., motors, RX, ESC, servos, laser/foam cutting, etc.). However, support must be requested, prearranged, and approved at least 6-weeks before the competition.

Additionally, as mentioned, the department will do what it can to provide mentors to help less experienced teams. Contact Dr. Miller for further information on support and mentor opportunities.

WSU support is contingent on the viability of the team’s participation and the availability of components and mentors. Be sure to work with the AE department in a timely and organized fashion. Dr. Miller may request additional information from interested participants to make sure resources are allocated with the highest possible educational impact.


Engineer of 2020

Eligible WSU students, especially seniors, might be able to earn “Engineer of 2020” service-learning credit serving as a mentor to underclassmen or high school teams. These opportunities must be prearranged. Contact Dr. Miller for further information.



Visit this section regularly for official Questions and Answers (Q&A’s) that can have an impact on your design efforts.

  1. Q: Can a battery other than the Great Planes ElectriFly LiPo 3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C be used?  A: Yes, but only if it's another pack of the same general specification (3S 11.1V 850mAh 25C) or smaller. (9/13/17)
  2. Q: Will dropping lots of seedlings in a zone count?  A: No, if three (3) or more seedlings land in a zone it will not count toward the PE value. (9/13/17)
  3. Q: Can the tennis balls be carried externally?  A: Yes, the tennis balls can be carried externally. However, no part of the plane’s crew mounts can be changed or removed if using an autonomous control system. (10/31/17)

  4. Q: May we eliminate the tennis balls (crew) if the plane uses any type of autonomous control system?  A: No, the crew can only be eliminated if the control system is actually flying the plane and/or releasing the seedlings. (10/31/17)
  5. Q: For teams using automation, is the weight contribution to score computed with or without tennis balls?  A: To simplify things, the weight measured during the mission completion using a human pilot and a "crew of two" (i.e., two tennis balls) will be used in all other flight score calculations. (12/6/17)


Remember to check this area regularly!

Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions - scott.miller@wichita.edu


Special Thanks

Special thanks go to WSU alumni and friends who provided ideas and suggestions for this year’s competition. Obviously, we are extremely appreciative of The Boeing Company’s support. Their investment in young engineers is important and most welcome!


Additional Information

Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions - scott.miller@wichita.edu

Here is a Bronze Propeller competition flyer you can print, post, and share - THE BRONZE PROPELLER FLYER           

"What I cannot build, I cannot understand" - Feynman

Visit this page often; don't miss important competition information, Q&A’s and news!  







Just for fun, here's some photos and assorted things from previous events. Enjoy!


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2017 First Place - Team T.E.A.M. (Nathaniel Baum, Jai Kishan Chadalawada, Liam Collins, Chris Fernando, & Tuong Ha).


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2017 Second Place - Team NFS (Kushal Dave, Ola Khaleel, Xiu Jie, Priessia Niswantari, & Neville Tay)


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2017 Third Place - Team Fusion (Bret Gordon, Nadhir Malik, Alberto Mosqueda, Sang Nguyen, & Thomas Tran)


Special thanks to our pilot, Jonathan Mowrey. He is truely amazing!

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Jonathan Mowrey - THE PILOT


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2017 Team Air Capital Aerospace's plane in flight (pretty)!


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A happy 2017 alumni team (Team NTFN)!


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2017 Team ICT preparing to open their box and to assemble their aircraft (in less than 5-min)!


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2017 Team NFS in the zone, where their payload landed - a bull's-eye!


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2017 Team T.E.A.M. showing you their bull's-eye!


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A small part of the 2017 crowd behind the sceen.



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Team Shock Drop - the 2016 Campions!


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2016 Team Just Wing It - 2nd Place


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2016 Team I-Drone - 3rd Place

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2016 Team Cloud - 4th Place


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Jonathan Mowrey (left) - The Bronze Propeller test pilot (an amazing pilot!)