Howard Composite Squadron assists at Cargo Airplane Challenge at BMI

Flight Officer Lucas Redman checking the tethers to be used in the challenge. (Photo credit: SM Elizabeth Dunster, CAP)
Flight Officer Lucas Redman checking the tethers to be used in the challenge. (Photo credit: SM Elizabeth Dunster, CAP)

Members of the Howard Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol assisted at the Middle and High School Cargo Airplane Challenge on February 16, 2014, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.  This is the second of the Maryland Engineering Challenges relating to aerospace, held annually at the BMI.  The Maryland Engineering Challenges are aimed at introducing school age students to the role of engineers in society.  

Nine middle school and eight high school teams competed in this challenge. Teams were required to build an airplane with maximum dimensions of three feet in all directions around a DC motor that was supplied to them.  The plane is flown around a power pole that supplies electricity and mechanical support via a tether.  The weight of the plane is measured after its first successful flight – teams then add cargo, and the competition involves seeing which plane can carry the most weight.  Teams are required to submit written reports explaining their design process before the event, and also present an oral report to judges on the day of the competition.  These are evaluated as part of the challenge.  

Seven members of Howard Composite Squadron assisted at the challenge, including three cadets and four senior members.  Aerospace Education Officer Lt. Col. Ronald Whitehead has been helping with the challenge for nine years, and 1st Lt. Charlotte Redman has helped for six.  Both thought that the challenge was a great learning opportunity, and great fun for participants and spectators alike.  They enjoyed seeing familiar faces of teachers and students who return to compete annually.

While the challenge was exciting to watch and participate in, things did not always go as planned.  Flight Officer Lucas Redman and Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Cody Taylor had to put their engineering skills into practice when the electrical tethers providing power to the small motors in the planes required repair.  Sometimes the little planes crashed, sending students scrambling to retrieve components for emergency repairs.  Clarksville Middle student Allison even found her plane’s engine smoking after its third flight!  

David Bond, Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher at Lake Elkhorn Middle School in Howard County, has had teams of students compete in the Challenge for at least three years.  Bond’s students love returning for it – and the sixth grade team at the competition wants to know when they can start working on the next plane!  Lake Elkhorn eighth grader Iris said that this is the third year she is doing the challenge, while fellow eighth grader Nick said it was his second year.  Nick likes it because it is hands-on and fun.  He found it interesting to see the airplane designs from other schools and would like to do it again, but thinks it is not offered at the high school he will be going to.

For Philip Herdman, Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher at Clarksville Middle School in Howard County, this was the first year his school was doing the Challenge, and they plan to return next year.  Clarksville teams took first, second, and third place in the middle school division.  Clarksville student Darcy said that “the experience of building a working plane for the plane challenge was amazing,” and Andrew said he enjoyed test flying the plane in the competition and at school.  Carolyn said, “Having the chance to work on planes and getting to have more knowledge about them was fun and educational, even if you don't win anything you still win your creativity.”

Paul Wiedorn, Engineering and Technology Teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County, has had teams participate in the challenge for at least six years.  Wilde Lake High School student Richard said that they worked on the planes at school in engineering class, where they learned about airfoils and wing shape.   They were then required to design a wing and build the plane.  At the competition, he said that “people cheered a lot when the planes got off the ground.”  He advised that “it was good to test the planes beforehand, so you have a better understanding of how to fly it, and how your plane will behave.”  

Fellow Wilde Lake High School student Deshoy, who won the challenge in 2013, returned to help the WLHS team.  “It taught me so much about life, [in] which we use our brilliant minds to come up with strategies and essential ideas to better ourselves and the society,” he said.  “Taking part in this challenge opened up my eyes to the engineering world that is so practical, with a diverse background that makes me want to jump on board with urgency and take steps to make a beautiful future for each individual.  The Cargo Airplane Challenge also taught me time management.”  Deshoy observed that his team’s project would “not have been successful if my group and I [had] not managed our time and played our daily roles to prevent any mishaps. This challenge made me think beyond the ordinary; solving problems and finding solutions to those problems… helped me figure out ways to make my Cargo Airplane efficient.”  

Tom Milnes, organizer of the Cargo Airplane Challenge, expressed appreciation to the Civil Air Patrol’s Maryland Wing and Howard Composite Squadron on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for their annual assistance with this event.  

Information about the Engineering Challenges is available on the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s website at www.thebmi.org/page/maryland_engineering_challenges.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually.  Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.  The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs.  CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years.  CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.  Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com for more information.

Nearly 1,700 CAP members serve in Maryland.  Last year wing members flew 13 search and rescue missions.   The wing was credited with five finds and one life saved.  Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland. Members flew 2,106 hours in all mission categories.  Volunteers contributed services estimated at 4.6 million dollars.  For more information contact the Maryland Wing at www.mdcap.org or follow the Wing on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarylandWingCivilAirPatrol.  

Howard Composite Squadron meets on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.  During the school year, the squadron does not meet on days that Howard County public schools are closed.

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