The University of Texas at El Paso’s status as a leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems technology served as a backdrop when the campus hosted the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s (CCDC) inaugural student unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design competition April 24 at Sun Bowl Stadium.
In a competition challenge offered to more than 1,700 U.S. universities, the top 11 university teams, which included a UTEP team, traveled to El Paso for the finals. Each team presented concepts and flew prototypes that addressed UAV technology gaps based on real-world challenges faced by Army researchers.
UTEP was selected as the host site based on its commitment to engaging in top tier research activity in the realm of unmanned aerial systems. Preparation for the competition involved months of planning between the College of Engineering and various campus units along with the U.S. Army and Great Minds in STEM.
In addition to challenging undergraduate students to propose solutions to real technological challenges faced by the U.S. Army, the competition also allowed CCDC to introduce students to the scope and impact of Army science and technology careers, and fostered diversity of thought among the country’s current and future innovators.
The UTEP student drone team — which included Kristtian Busquets, John Gamboa, Rocio Lopez Terrazas, Moises Navarro, Zack Nieto, Dania Orozco, Jacquelin
Prieto and Richard Reyes — prepared for the competition by engaging in various aspects of drone engineering. Within the team there were five students from mechanical engineering, two from electrical engineering and one from industrial engineering. Together, they conducted soldering, 3D printing, safety analysis and other tasks.
Michael McGee, Ph.D., a research associate for UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR), oversaw the students’ work. He said the competition offered a tremendous opportunity to highlight the importance of engineering students in the campus’ progress on critical future technology.
The UTEP team won second place at the competition. Other top finishers at the event included the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico (first place); the University of Illinois at Chicago (third place); and Spelman College of Atlanta, Georgia (fourth place). - Pablo Villa