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Engineering Students' Flying Desk Makes a Splash at Red Bull Flugtag in Miami

Well, they didn't win. But given what the Old Dominion University engineering students created as an entry for the Red Bull Flugtag contest, it's not entirely surprising.

Desks aren't known for aerodynamics.

However, the five students had an amazing time, and got the word out about the university to a crowd of more than 100,000 at the July 10 event in Miami.

"They announced before we went off the platform that we were from Old Dominion University and that we were engineers, and the whole crowd cheered," said Ross Leventhal, a rising junior in mechanical engineering from Virginia Beach and the aerodynamics expert of ODU's Red Bull Flugtag team.

"We were one of only three engineering schools among the teams that took part."

The ODU team was selected as one of 30 finalists in the Red Bull Flugtag, a silly contest where devices "fly" off a 30-foot platform into water and are judged on flying distance and aesthetic appeal.

The ODU team called itself "Office Party," and made a flying desk, complete with computer attached. The students even re-enacted the photocopier demolition scene from the 1999 cult comedy "Office Space" before they pitched their desk off the ledge.

And the actual "flight?" Well, the desk traveled 32 feet. That's farther than the "flying" mobile home that dropped straight down into the water, Leventhal said. And it's a minor miracle the ODU craft even reached the launching point.

"Our desk got destroyed, absolutely shredded, on the way down to Miami. We had to do a major repair to even enter the competition," Leventhal said.

But on Saturday afternoon, there was the desk in all its glory, with wheels and wings attached, dropping into Miami Bay. "This was one of the best experiences of my life," Leventhal said.

Other Office Party team members were Matt Drake, a rising sophomore in civil engineering from Virginia Beach; Matthew Liberman, a soon-to-be junior in mechanical engineering technology from Charlottesville, Va.; Greg Howell, a rising senior in civil engineering from Chantilly, Va.; and Chris McCutcheon, a former mechanical engineering student who recently changed his major to accounting and information technology, from Virginia Beach.

According to its website, the Red Bull Flugtag "challenges teams of everyday people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight! Flugtag may mean 'flying day' in German, but all these crafts ultimately splash into the waters below. They are judged not only on their flight's distance, but creativity and showmanship as well."

To see video of the ODU team's effort in the Red Bull Flugtag, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAFNBbWp1c8. The ODU team's machine is at 8:08.




This article was posted on: July 15, 2010

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