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Four students stand in front of a project screen to present and showcase the design of their glider.
Five teams of engineering students gained practical experience at the AAWE Design Challenge this year by completing a mock industry project and presenting their designs to a panel of judges. | Image: Courtesy of Aggie Aerospace Women in Engineering

Aggie Aerospace Women in Engineering (AAWE), a student-run organization in Texas A&M University's Department of Aerospace Engineering, wrapped up the spring semester by hosting a one-day design challenge with guests from Bell.

The AAWE Design Challenge presented five teams of aerospace and general engineering students with a mock industry project; build, test and demonstrate a glider.

"We wanted to do something more hands-on where students could apply the skills they're learning and have contact with industry engineers," said Eleazar Herrera, an aerospace engineering graduate student.

Each team kickstarted the competition by developing a design and creating a Computer Aided Design model, which they ran by their assigned mentor from Bell. Once their design was approved, they could use an artificial budget to purchase design materials from the supply store and begin building. Some of the teams even ran an aerodynamic analysis of the airfoils they chose to showcase the stability of their aircraft.

As the teams designed and developed their projects, engineers from Bell served as mentors throughout the challenge. The event also offered first-year students the opportunity to experience aerospace and interact with students in the department as they go through the Entry to a Major process.

"A few study groups came out of this event too and connected underclassmen with upperclassmen," said Herrera.

Once designs were completed, each team presented to a panel of judges consisting of faculty and staff from the aerospace engineering department. The winning team received swag bags provided by Bell.

With the event's success, AAWE aims to make this an annual design challenge to introduce students, especially first- and second-year students, to an aerospace experience and mentorship from industry professionals.