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Students will take to the skies in Birdman competition

Published: 13 September 2010

Fledgling engineers from the University of Southampton are aiming to soar to success in the Worthing Birdman competition this weekend (15 August).

A team of final-year undergraduate students has designed, built and tested an aircraft, which they hope will be a winged winner.

Last summer, academics and students from the University's School of Engineering Sciences designed and manufactured an aircraft for Five's Gadget Show host Jason Bradbury to pilot. He came top in his class for the furthest distance travelled over the weekend.

"This year, the project has been run by our undergraduate students," says supervisor Dr Alexander Forrester. "They have worked really hard on the design, which is a bit more ambitious than last year's craft. There is a stabiliser at the front, known as a 'canard', which may have aerodynamic benefits but could also make the aircraft difficult to control. It will be exciting to see what happens."

Entrants into the Birdman competition are challenged to fly off Worthing Pier. Southampton's design is entered in the Da Vinci class in which flyers attempt to achieve a distance of 100 metres.

The group of eight students worked on the project as part of their final-year studies. They used computational simulations and tested a scale model in the University's RJ Mitchell wind tunnel to optimise their design.

"A lighter and stiffer structure with better control was needed to improve performance," says project leader Scott Wallis.

"The team undertook an extensive design process. The final design has been manufactured over the last few weeks using lightweight foam, composite and balsa wood components. We are confident it will fly, but the final result is very weather dependant!"

The Birdman project is just one example of the engineering initiatives students work on; others include racing cars, spacecraft, airliners, fighter aircraft, unmanned air vehicles, helicopters, wind turbines, yachts, submarines and ships www.southampton.ac.uk/ses

The International Worthing Birdman competition takes place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 August. www.worthingbirdman.co.uk

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