Georgia Tech Student to Pilot Paper Hang Glider in NC Dunes
Tech Team to Build Glider, Compete for Top Prize of $15,000
Posted March 18, 2003 | Atlanta
Vicky Hsu could have spent her spring break vacation relaxing. Instead, the chemical engineering senior geared up for a high flying week in the sand dunes of North Carolina, learning how to hang glide from the pros. She'll need the practice: On April 5, she'll pilot a homemade hang glider with wings made almost entirely of paper products.
"The higher I flew, the easier it was to sail," said Hsu, who along with four other Georgia Tech students, is representing Georgia Tech during the Energy Challenge 2003 competition at Jockey's Ridge State Park, in Nags Head, NC. The competition pits the Georgia Tech team against teams from nine other colleges across the country.
They'll see who can build the best paper hang glider, as well as who can "hang one,' or fly it the farthest, from atop an 80-foot dune in North Carolina, near the same dunes where the famous Wright brothers toiled to record the first powered flight in history one hundred years ago in 1903. The contest also marks the centennial celebration of flight.
With a top prize of $15,000 at stake, the team has been intently building their hang glider in a large cargo bay at the Atlanta Technology Center. Much of the sail is being built using materials such as paperboard and linerboard, and various chemicals during the finishing and bonding stages.
"We're testing the strength and elasticity of the paper today," said Jabulani Barber, a chemical engineering student and team member, as he placed a strip of paper into a machine that measures how much pressure the paper can take before it snaps in half. The information will be useful as the team selects the best paper to use for the glider.
The next step: They'll select a strong glue to piece the different types of paper together. Eventually, the paper will be laid out on the ground and cut to the specs of the hang glider's metal frame in a modified Rogallo wing design. From there, they'll attach the paper sail to the glider and frame.
Judges will score the teams primarily on who sails the farthest distance. Each team gets three flights, and the combined distance of those flights weighs heavily in determining the winner. Other factors will be considered, such as which hang glider weighs the least, which team made the best use of recycled products, and which glider looks the best in flight.
The Energy Challenge is an annual event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. This year, Kitty Hawks Kites, Inc. is also a sponsor. The purpose of Energy Challenge is to increase interest in science and engineering and promote awareness of energy efficiency, manufacturing design, recycling, waste minimization, package maximizing and pulp and paper industrial processes.
Teams participating this year, in addition to Tech, are: North Carolina State University; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; University of Maine; Miami University; Temple University; Savannah College of Art and Design; Spartan School of Aeronautics; University of Central Florida; and Western Michigan University. The first place school will receive $15,000; second place, $10,000; and third place, $5,000. The team's faculty advisor is Jeffery Hsieh, a professor of chemical engineering at Tech.
Last year, another Georgia Tech team entered the Energy Challenge and sailed away with the $15,000 prize. The competition required teams to build a paper sailboard and windsurf it at Lake Lanier.
Note: Media may schedule time to visit the team at Georgia Tech as they build the paper hang glider prior to the April 5 competition. Media may also be placed on a calling list for instant competition results at 1:30 p.m. April 5. Still photography and video will be available following the competition.