The aeronautical engineering students took part in the Paper planes competition this past weekend. They are going to compete later this year in a fly-off against Tuks and will be working on projects like the Wits solar car.

Concentrated frowns turned into smiles and sighs of relief when several carefully folded paper planes, took flight and filled the open spaces of Flower Hall, on Wits west campus.

Students assemble on the landing strip to compare their paper planes before competing in the Paper Wings competition.

Students assemble on the landing strip to compare their paper planes before competing in the Paper Wings competition.         Photo: Riante Naidoo

The 3rd year aeronautical engineering students took part in the nationwide Paper Wings competition on Saturday, March 21.

Over and above the 3rd year’s compulsory participation in the competition, Michael Boer, 3rd year lecturer for aircraft design, said he gets his class to do an internal competition in their laboratory every March.

“For most of them [the students], they never threw paper aeroplanes at school,” Boer said, “So for them it’s the first flying machine they’ve ever made.”

This year was 3rd year aeronautical engineering student, Daleel Motala’s, second year competing in Paper Wings. “It’s good to do practical things like this especially as a student engineer,” he said.
“Sometimes when you are sitting at your desk designing a concept for an aircraft, you need to have a sense of how the aircraft will fly, if at all, even before running the calculations.”

Students enjoyed the practical aspect of the course and Boer felt that a practical side is integral.

“Third year engineers don’t have a lot of free time and they also don’t have a lot of fun,” he said. “Often a student, whose marks are not particularly good, will end up winning the internal challenge, and the top academic students normally don’t do so well because they’ve over complicated it.”

Motala reached a distance of 16m on his long distance throw. He said he made the “wrong type of plane” and was okay with his performance at Paper Wings.
“I made it sleek and aerodynamic, but with that type of design you have to throw it with a lot of speed, and my throw arm isn’t great” he said. “I should have given my plane more wing area.”

The School of Engineering is involved in several projects, one with “unmanned aerial vehicles (drones),” and another upcoming project is to assist with the design of the Wits solar car.

Boer said the school has also had several great successes. “We have had some students working at big companies like Airbus, Boeing, and Formula1” he said. “The South African Aerospace Industry is built up by Wits graduates as we’re the only place that does this,” he added.

The school is looking forward to the annual radio control competition hosted by the Aeronautical Society of South Africa, in October. “Wits versus the University of Pretoria in a fly-off,” Boer said.
“Wits did very well and entered four aircrafts last year, unfortunately we did not win,” he said. “We’ve got a firm foundation of 20 students this year and are hoping for a win.”