Kiewit Hall celebration on target with friendly paper aircraft competition

Calendar Icon Jan 31, 2024      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed  RSS Submit a Story

Nebraska Engineering students, faculty and staff capped the Kiewit Hall opening week with a friendly paper aircraft competition on Friday, Jan. 26. (Craig Chandler / University Communication and Marketing)
Nebraska Engineering students, faculty and staff capped the Kiewit Hall opening week with a friendly paper aircraft competition on Friday, Jan. 26. (Craig Chandler / University Communication and Marketing)

Nearly 100 students, faculty and staff let their imaginations take flight on Friday, Jan. 26 in a friendly paper aircraft competition inside Kiewit Hall to cap the College of Engineering’s celebration of the new building’s opening week.

From locations on second and third floors, competitors launched their creations down Kiewit Hall’s monumental staircase, with the goal to land on a first-floor target.

“The main reason for this event was to celebrate the new building, this amazing world-class engineering facility,” said Blake Anderson, research project manager for the Heartland Robotics Cluster and one of the event’s organizers. “Kiewit Hall has this incredible open space and beautiful features from top to bottom. This was a great way to spotlight that.”

Though most stuck to traditional paper aircraft designs – a single sheet of paper, sometimes a heavy stock, folded to create a triangular vehicle with a pointed nose and two wings – some of the designs pushed the envelope and perhaps the rules a bit. 

Among those designs were:

  • A long, stick-like tube with a small paper cylinder at each end.
  • A replica of a military fighter jet, replete with an American flag on the tail.
  • A mosaic of multiple sheets of paper that resembled the Texas state flag and was roughly six times larger than most of the other competitors.

In the end, the most accurate aircraft design looked like it had been pulled from Robin Hood’s quiver. Luke Doughty’s arrow-inspired aircraft – about 24 inches long – hit the bull’s eye in all three rounds and was awarded the top prize.

Doughty, a freshman software engineering major from St. Charles, Illinois, said his first designs tested the limits of the contest’s rules.

After a first attempt at a traditional design wasn’t what Doughty hoped, he crumpled it into a ball and “tested” it by tossing it at the target. He was informed that wouldn’t be allowed, so it was back to the drawing board and a tried-and-true engineering design process – working through multiple iterations – until Doughty landed on a winner.

“We were just goofing around with the ideas. They said it had to at least resemble a plane,” Doughty said. “I thought, ‘Why not make a missile?’ Then that ended up turning into an arrow. It was a shot in the dark, but it hit the target.”





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