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Real World Design Challenge: Engineering for Good

The Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) is an annual competition (now in its’ 11th year) that provides high school students the opportunity to tackle real world engineering challenges as a team. Each year, student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation’s industries. Students use professional engineering software to develop their solutions and generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace.

The challenge for the 2018-19 competition was to create an unmanned aerial system capable of monitoring the ongoing health of vegetation planted to reduce pollution in a mock urban environment.

After much research and contemplation, the GDS team (the two of us, plus Michelle Kim ’19), called “CSI: Can’t Stop Innovating,” came to the conclusion that the most effective and efficient drone to use in this situation would be a multi-rotor, hex-propeller design. This would maximize maneuverability as well as minimize launch and recovery complexity. The addition of two extra propellers to the standard quad-propeller design would provide the drone with extra vertical lift power, which it would need, with the addition of the camera and sensors required to complete the given task. Along with the main body design, deciding which sensors and electronic equipment to use required a lot of research and cost analysis. The cost of our drone design, including parts and operational costs, totals to $8,349.31, just 4% of the maximum amount allowed by the competition. The components we’ve chosen, along with our design, maximize the efficiency of the drone while minimizing the cost.

Editor’s note: The GDS team won the DC RWDC state competition in January. Congratulations! Winning the state competition automatically qualifies the team for the national competition, to be held at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase in April, along with 23 other U.S. teams and more from overseas.

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