The penn state sailplane project - The first decade

Götz Bramesfeld, Mark D. Maughmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


For over a decade, the Department of Aerospace Engineering of The Pennsylvania State University has offered a special undergraduate project course that has a strong emphasis on "hands on" design and fabrication. Specifically, a group of approximately twenty-five students, freshmen through seniors, is involved in the design and construction of high-performance sailplanes. Students can and are expected to enroll in this course for every semester during their undergraduate study. The basic course structure consists primarily of three components. The first, lecture, provides the student with the necessary theoretical background of modern sailplanes and their design requirements. The second component consists of design groups, in which four to eight students design and analyze sailplanes. The current design work is a preliminary design of an easy-to-build, full-size sailplane that can be fabricated by the students within one to two years. The theoretical analysis of the flight vehicle includes, among other things, its performance, structure, as well as its stability and control. The third component of the course structure is the fabrication of parts that have been designed and analyzed theoretically. Additionally to the fabrication and design work, the students have so-called "design contests" on a regular basis. During these contests, the students design and build a flight vehicle that must meet agreed upon design constraints and accomplish a particular mission. To a large part, the learning experience can be related to the integrated nature of the design course, as well as to the interaction of undergraduate students at all levels of their program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication20th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc.
ISBN (Print)9781624101106
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Event20th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference 2002 - St. Louis, MO, United States
Duration: Jun 24 2002Jun 26 2002

Publication series

Name20th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference


Other20th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference 2002
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySt. Louis, MO

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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