Temple Flugtag team takes flight

A team of five that will compete in D.C. includes four Temple engineering majors.

When Temple engineering majors were assigned their senior design project, they could’ve chosen the typical route of building bridge replicas. Instead, four of them chose to fly.

Red Bull Flugtag is an event sponsored by the energy drink company in which teams build flying machines, better known as gliders, that are flown off a 30-foot dock.  There are three winners at every event, one for each of the following criteria: distance, creativity and showmanship.

A team of Temple students will compete in the Washington, D.C. event, one of five Red Bull Flugtag competitions going on in the country. All on Sept. 21, they will take place in four additional cities – Miami, Chicago, Long Beach, Calif. and Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas. The event will be held at Washington’s Southpointe Waterfront. The gates open at noon and the event is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

Temple students Omar Onwuke, a senior mechanical engineering major, and Greg Oakley, Kyle Eldridge and Tommy Fallon, all senior civil engineering majors, created the team they’ve named Temple Aeronautics Designs.

“Mechanical engineering has a lot more to do with moving parts,” Onwuke said, explaining their differing majors. “Transportation is a big part of it, [involving] cars, trains, airplanes and boats.”

Eldridge and Fallon explained that civil engineering is more geared toward bridges and other things less kinetic.  Each teammate hopes to land a job in their respective fields after graduating from Temple.

Billy Pope, a fifth team member, is not a Temple student.  All team members said that they have been working on their glider every other weekend for the last two or three months.

The idea originally came about when Oakley recalled the Red Bull Flugtag event where he worked in a concessions tent  last year in Camden, N.J.

He said he came up with the idea to design his own glider for this year’s flugtag event for his senior design project, which all engineering majors at Temple must complete before graduation.

Eventually, he recruited the other team members. The team said they were first met with some resistance from the senior design coordinators, the board that approves the projects. The board was reluctant to approve a flugtag competition as a legitimate senior project. Luckily for the team, they were able to convince the board to accept their proposal.

In order to approve the project, the coordinators mandated their glider to be a replica of the 1902 Wright brothers’ glider.  The glider will be 20 feet in length.

“Luckily, the biggest U-Haul truck is 22 feet long,” Oakley said as to how their glider will be transported to the event.

Because Temple Aeronautics Designs is redesigning an early model airplane, they believe their glider has a legitimate chance of flying far from the dock.

“Most people don’t take it seriously,” Eldridge said.

He believes Temple’s team is unique in the sense that their glider is for a college-level engineering project and not just for fun like most of their competitors.  The team feels particularly strong in their ability to dominate the distance competition, as most teams are more concerned with building the most creative looking gliders.

Fallon will be piloting the Wright brothers’ replica come competition day.

“I’m a little nervous,” Fallon said. “But seeing 110,000 people in the crowd might change that.”

Fallon uses the number 110,000 since it’s the amount of people who attended the event last year in Camden, N.J., and it’s a decent approximation for how many people will attend this year in Washington.

Fallon said the sight of so many people will make him less nervous because he’ll be more “amped up.”  Luckily for Fallon, the event staff stresses safety for the pilots.

“They make you wear bike helmets and a life vest,” Fallon said.

Tom Beck can be reached at thomas.beck@temple.edu.

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