Build Season is Here

by Chandler Cairatti / January 19, 2021


Hello all! Miner Aviation has been quietly working away at our goals for this year and made some amazing progress. There is a lot of news such as competition updates, team collaboration shout-outs, new sponsorship announcements, and more to cover so let's get started!

Competition Updates

The AIAA Design Build Fly competition is still on and Miner Aviation has officially been accepted along with 100+ teams from around the world. To reread what our challenges are this year, take a look at our competition info page. Wasting little time, our Chief Engineer and Leads began laying the groundwork for our build season before a much-needed winter break. Materials have also been received for composite manufacturing, balsa build-ups, internal system design, and more!

Starting off the year with a lay-up, our Design & Manufacturing and Dynamic Systems subteams have been steadily working towards our first prototype plane. Following all the same COVID 19 guidelines as before, our members are working 6 ft apart to build our first pair of wings! They have started creating some carbon composite pieces and jigs and will soon construct the first wing.


Our Chief Engineer, Sam Weiler, is back in Rolla and starting the groundwork for our design report. This 60-page document will detail the design specifications that our team creates to best tackle this year’s challenges. It is equivalent to a small thesis and requires all of our leads to work together to write the best report we can. The report also determines flight order at the competition so the higher we score, the more flights we are likely to have in Tucson!

Yes, we are still planning to travel to Tucson, AZ to compete in person this year. By the end of this month, we should find out if AIAA plans to hold the in-person portion of the competition as normal (with COVID 19 restrictions) or if they will choose a digital format. The digital format would consist of MAV submitting the design report, a video presentation explaining the design report and our plane, and video footage of our plane performing the challenges of the competition. Either way, Miner Aviation plans to build some planes this year so that our members get the most experiential learning possible.

Team Collaborations

The resources and information available to Miner Aviation through the Student Design and Experiential Learning Center (SDELC) are invaluable to this team. Unlike many other teams in our competition this year, we were always guaranteed to have shop space and available funds to ensure we are able to do our best at the competition. They have been a strong supporter for all of us teams throughout the uncertainty of the COVID 19 pandemic and MAV appreciates and thanks them for their support.

One of the most valuable resources available to MAV through the SDELC is other Design Teams. With 19+ Design Teams at Missouri S&T, we are the only university in the world to have such a large and diverse group of teams. The Mars Rover Design Team has not been around as long as Miner Aviation but has proven themselves to be some of the best manufacturers in the center. Thanks to Keyton Rovka on Mars Rover, Miner Aviation is working with MRDT to increase our knowledge of composites manufacturing and develop better methods to create better composites. Mars Rover is also helping MAV with machining some metal pieces for our sensor as we rarely, if ever, need to machine parts for our planes due to the lighter-weight materials we normally use.

Thanks to Mars Rover, Miner Aviation is able to expand our manufacturing knowledge in order to keep pushing the limits of what we are able to achieve. Check them out at

New Equipment

Part of Miner Aviation’s funding requests to the Student Activity Finance Board (SAFB) in September 2020 was funding for some new equipment. This equipment is something the team has been trying to get for almost 10 years and I am very excited to announce that not only did we receive funding for a brand new laser cutter, we also received funding for a specialty load cell for thrust testing!

Allow me the honor of introducing you to the Boss Laser 1416 laser cutter!


This laser cutter is something that the team has needed for many years. We are the only team within the SDELC that requires laser cutting to create our projects. Due to the materials we use, a water jet is too powerful and not nearly as tight on tolerances. A laser cutter is able to cut/engrave through all the types of woods we use as well as some other materials such as acrylic, anodized metals, and some plastics. Laser cutting our wing ribs into airfoils (the shape of the wing) required at least $500 and a nearly two-month turnaround time. Having our own laser cutter allows us to cut out a full set of wing ribs in about two hours and only at the cost of materials. This massive decrease in time will be life-changing for the team and allow us to try out a lot more designs and build more plans in our tight build schedule. See the exact specs of our new laser cutter on Boss Laser’s website.


Also, meet the RC Benchmark Series 1780 Thrust Stand!


While not necessarily a piece of equipment desperately needed by the team, it is certainly something that will greatly benefit the team’s performance. While MAV had access to a load cell through the Missouri S&T Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, we were required to schedule time on it and were bottlenecked by schedules of our members and those in charge of operating it. Having our own load cell (with custom RC plane and drone software) will allow our Propulsion team to test whenever they need to and for as long as they want. We will be able to get data within a few days that would normally take us up to four weeks to get with scheduling restrictions. To see the full specifications of this thrust stand, visit RC Benchmark’s website.

New Website & Crowdfunding

To close, I’ll ask you all to take a look at our new website! Our Webmaster, Mason Phillips, spent this winter break overhauling our whole website to a new editing platform which gives us much more control over every aspect of the design and layout. There are still many tweaks and refinements that need to be made but the overall structure is complete!

Also, keep an eye out on our social media for crowdfunding announcements. This is one of our largest funding campaigns we do and helps pay for a large portion of our travel and build budget. As was the case last year, if travel is canceled, all funds will go towards the build budget and/or helping improve team tools and equipment. Every dollar helps and no amount is too small!

I’ll close this post out with a quote from one of my role models and a great proponent of all of S&T’s Design Teams:

“Shut up and get to work!” - Dr. Chris Ramsay, SDELC Director

Best regards,

Chandler Cairatti

Miner Aviation President

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