A Wichita team didn’t win the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly competition last weekend at Textron Aviation, but a Wichita-based teacher did.
Textron engineer Gonzalo Mendoza lives in Wichita but remotely teaches aircraft design to senior engineering students at San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif.
Six of those students competed in the annual competition among universities worldwide to design, build and demonstrate radio-controlled aircraft that meet certain design challenges.
Mendoza says students have to create “fairly unusual airplanes.”
“It sparks a lot of creativity from the students,” he says.
They had to create two planes, actually, one of which could fit into the other.
One design that Mendoza’s students created borrowed from an early airplane with the use of a box tail, which is a tail that looks like a box.
“It was very unusual,” he says.
Neither of their planes had ailerons, which are used to roll planes from side to side.
The planes bested entries from almost 70 other schools and won the students $2,500, a trophy and books on aircraft design and career building.
Mendoza is modest about winning.
“Really, it’s mostly the kids’ efforts,” he says. He adds, though, “Of course, winning in my home turf was very important to me.”
Mendoza says the whole weekend was a win.
“It was fantastic,” he says. “We spent a whole weekend surrounded by airplanes and people who love airplanes.”
Mendoza says he occasionally flies to see his students.
“When you teach distance learning, it’s difficult to try and maintain that personal connection.”
He says it was great to connect in Wichita, and he had a chance to have his students to his home for a barbecue.
Mendoza says they talked a lot about planes – especially Textron planes.
He says another special part of the weekend is that his wife, father and 2-year-old son, Luke, were there.
Mendoza says his father, an aircraft fan, helped teach him about planes.
“I’m doing the same thing my dad did with me,” Mendoza says. “It was a very happy moment.”