Who We Are

The Hardware branch of PennAiR consists of students from all over the university interested in designing model aircraft. Members of the Hardware Branch typically have a background in Mechanical Engineering, but we represent a wide range of majors, including Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and even Bioengineering. However, all members share an enthusiasm for aviation, model aircraft, and WWII flight simulators.

What We Do

Our engineers design and build model aircraft around various competition criteria. On the weekends, you might find us working hard on an aircraft with highly modular components. Perhaps we’re laser-cutting balsa in the Rapid Prototyping Lab, or CAD-ding up a model of a proposed folding tail assembly in the Fishbowl. You might find us in the basement of Towne, getting ready to run wind tunnel tests on a 3D Printed scale model. On the Hardware team, we take the principles of flight from the classroom and the internet into the real world, turning them from theory into reality.

Computer-Aided Design

We use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to create virtual mockups before even touching a single piece of balsa. Without it, keeping track of aircraft geometry would be a massive pain. Additionally, we utilize Solidworks to run simulations on individual pieces of the aircraft to inform our design choices.


Mathematical Modeling

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Design choices should be justified by some kind of model, not just thrown around because they look cool. These models can either be simple pen-and-paper calculations, or more advanced simulations such as ANSYS Fluent or ANSYS Structures.



Parts Fabrication

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Being able to quickly prototype components allows us to create more design iterations, which ultimately results in a better aircraft. “Fail fast, fail forward”, as they say. We utilize methods such as CNC milling, laser cutting, 3D printing, composites construction, and good old-fashioned balsa and woodglue.