Fishing skills

UTDesign teams hone their removal skills in the drone challenge


Takedown team members Sarah Tempelmeyer BS’21 and Justin Pool BS’21 recharged their team’s custom drone during a demonstration last spring for corporate sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. The team’s design included a cannon that fires spring-loaded projectiles that throw a net to capture an enemy drone.

Three groups of engineering students at the University of Texas at Dallas took on a company-backed challenge: to design and build a low-cost portable system for sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. which can deactivate a “hostile” drone.

Each group of the UTDesign the main synthesis class worked separately, each with a budget of $ 3,000. After months of planning, testing and resolving issues such as supplier delays, teams came up with various successful solutions during a demonstration on campus last spring. None had seen the drawings of the others.

Each team showed faculty mentors and Lockheed Martin officials how their designs work. One group, Icarus Solutions, used 3D printed parts to convert a paintball gun into a mechanism that fires projectiles containing coiled fishing line. As the projectile flies towards a target, the line automatically unwinds creating a device that can entangle the rotors of a drone. Another team, UTDefense, designed a drone in a cage, which protects the drone when it collides and disables a hostile unmanned aerial vehicle.

UTDefense’s design featured a drone inside a protective cage, allowing the system to collide and disable a hostile unmanned aerial vehicle.

The third group, Team Takedown, won the challenge with their custom drone, which sported a cannon that fires spring-loaded projectiles that throw a net to capture an enemy drone.

Elizabeth Pham BS’21, the team leader, attributed the success of Team Takedown to strong group dynamics and “amazing mentors”. Pham, who graduated in mechanical engineering from UT Dallas in May, said the project has helped her feel better prepared to start her career.

“Everyone on the team was diligent and communicated with each other, and we were able to be optimistic and resilient in the face of setbacks,” said Pham. “While winning the challenge was rewarding, I will always remember the long hours and late nights working on this project with my team. Throughout this journey, I came out with new skills, both technical and leadership, but I also came away with new friends, and winning the competition was the icing on the cake.

UTDesign is a synthesis course which gives Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science seniors the opportunity to work with professors and corporate mentors on real issues for sponsors. The program sometimes offers challenges in which a few teams work separately on the same problem for a sponsor.

Dr Robert Hart, associate professor of practice in mechanical Engineering and director of the mechanical engineering faculty at UTDesign, said synthesis projects teach students that there can be more than one solution to a problem.

“Although all three teams worked on the exact same problem, they each came up with a unique and creative solution that met their client’s specifications. It was great to see that they all did it, ”said Hart. “This project allowed students to show their creativity and engineering abilities while helping them understand that in engineering design, there is no better solution to a problem. I believe that students have gained many valuable skills from this experience which they can pursue in their careers.

David Wright, a senior mechanical engineering executive at Lockheed Martin, said he was impressed with the students’ work. He said Lockheed Martin, which has hired a number of alumni from UT Dallas, has become a sponsor of UTDesign to expand its relationship with the university.

“The teams have had real problems,” said Wright. “They all worked hard. They were detail-oriented and learned to overcome obstacles and manage their time. All of their designs were a success.

UTDesign Icarus Solutions team members demonstrated their design using 3D printed parts to convert a paintball gun into a mechanism that shoots projectiles containing coiled fishing line.