As the name implies, design is at the very core of what we do at Design Build Fly. Whether it be aerodynamic design, structural design, or mechanical design, every single one of our members will get to part take in some form of design. The aerodynamics team will work with XFLR5 to design the geometry of our aerodynamic surfaces in accordance with our size, weight, and stability constraints. From there the structures team will use SolidWorks to design the physical structure of the wing, tail, fuselage, etc, while ensuring ease of access and that every part will be strong enough to withstand the stress that will be applied to it. Coordination between teams, during the design phase, enables students to engage in systems integration engineering.
While a well-thought-out design is essential, it means nothing without a build of equal quality. As part of UC Merced, we have access to many rapid manufacturing methods such as laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC routing, and more. These allow us to cut down on manufacturing time and to rapidly iterate if need be. However, no matter how thoroughly our plane is designed, there will always be unforeseen circumstances. The build phase is when problem-solving skills are truly put to the test. It is crucial that members are able to improvise solutions even in unideal conditions.
Just because the design and build are completed, does not mean that there is no more learning to be had. An aircraft has many interdependent characteristics and without thorough knowledge and experience, it can be very difficult to predict how these characteristics will perform when the aircraft takes flight for the first time. The flying phase of the project is when members get to observe the real-life consequences of their design choices and to make note of aspects that may need improvement or redesign.