Thursday May 14, 2015
South Burlington High School (SBHS) students won the top spot in the state Governor’s Cup of the Real World Design Challenge for the seventh consecutive year. The team of Daniel Chang, Alexandre Chaulot, Clark Deng, Derek Gagnon, Aster O’Leary, Thomas Urbanak, and Daniel Yi will now move on to the national competition, presenting their solution to an advanced design challenge in Washington, DC in November.
The challenge this year was to develop engineering and business plans for a company that would provide precision agriculture services to farmers. Specifically, students were to design a system that would provide precision delivery of pesticides only where needed in large fields of crops, using an unmanned aerial vehicle system (UAS). This is cutting-edge technology, as Federal Aviation Administration regulations have only recently allowed this type of activity in the US. Working within the design requirements of the competition, the SBHS students determined that it would be extremely difficult to meet mission goals with the payload capacity of current UAS technology, so they developed a highly innovative strategy in which the aerial vehicle is connected to a mobile ground station by lightweight suspended tubing, freeing the vehicle from the need to carry a heavy payload.
The students worked after school, on weekends, and over school breaks, following design processes that mirror those of professional design teams. Their plan needed to be based on sound engineering and they needed to develop a complete business plan that demonstrated the commercial viability of their proposal. During last year’s competition, students logged over 400 hours each, developing their submission. The team is coached by Stephen Barner, Technology Content Area Supervisor.
The competition organizers will pay all expenses for the students’ trip to Washington, D.C. in the fall. In the meantime, they have a lot of work in store, as the national challenge will require them to take their proposal much further. The team has a special incentive, as several of them were on the SBHS team that took first place in the national competition last year. Congratulations to these amazing young people.