Engineering success

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ILHS students win regional design contest

By Jesef Williams

INDIAN LAND – The ins and outs of propeller design are a lot easier to understand now for a group of Indian Land High School students.


Two groups of students in John Marlette’s engineering class competed last month in a design and build competition in Rock Hill. The contest required groups from area high schools to design a miniature rotor/propeller using CAD (computer-aided design) software.

Team Dynamite and Warrior Designers, both from Indian Land High, finished first and third, respectively.  They were among 11 groups that competed, representing ILHS, Fort Mill High, Nation Ford High, Northwestern High, Rock Hill High, South Pointe High and York Comprehensive High schools.

Team Dynamite’s members were sophomore Savannah Adams, junior Michael Danko and senior Kaitlyn Vaughn, while Warrior Designers consisted of seniors Scott Baker and Elizabeth Wheeler and sophomore Adam Tuiletufuga.

“They were just absolutely the most phenomenal teams in the competition,” Marlette said. “I could not have worked with a better group of students.”

The competition began Oct. 5, when teams first started working on their propeller projects. The objective was to design a propeller (using CAD) that could travel the farthest horizontally when launched from a launch device.

The designs were submitted to 3D Systems University at York Technical College, which built the custom propellers for each team.

The propellers were made of plastic and had to be 6 inches in diameter. Each team submitted multiple designs during the process.

Adams said it was cool seeing her group’s designs turned into something you could hold.

Her group’s propeller scored a launch distance of 43 feet. It was built with two blades with a slight curve, which may have allowed the propeller to travel a good distance, Adams said.

Warrior Designers’ second propeller design traveled 45 feet, but was disqualified because it was built too large. Their next best propeller, built with three blades, flew 39 feet.

Vaughn said the competition was a great learning experience.

“I didn’t anticipate how much fun it would be,” she said. “We got to see how different everybody’s designs were.”

The six participating students were in Marlette’s semester-long Introduction to Engineering and Design course, which wrapped up last week.

The class, new to Indian Land High this school year, is part of Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nationwide initiative that offers students a rigorous educational experience in science and engineering.

Baker, who’s graduating this year, wished the course would have been offered sooner, but said he’s glad nonetheless to have had a chance to take it.

He wants to study engineering in college.

“It’s an ever-growing and prominent industry,” Baker said. “So having specific training in that will be beneficial for the rest of my life.”

Marlette said the students learned a lot in the engineering class.

The principles they studied in the propeller project are similar to those used to build airplanes, helicopters, fans and other objects that use rotors.

“The aerodynamics would lend itself to aerospace technology,” Marlette said. “The concepts are the same. They learned a lot about propellers and resistance.”

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1152