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The Flying Tigers soar to great heights

PHS Engineering Club wins state title for the third year in a row

The early morning meetings of Princeton High School’s (PHS) engineering club, The Flying Tigers, have once again taken them high above their competition. Winning the state’s Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) for the third year in a row on Jan. 23, their design for a multi-purpose, agricultural unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, also commonly known as a drone) is now being prepped for competition at the national level.

The RWDC is an annual competition giving teams of high school and STEM school students opportunities to work on engineering problems. The teams are asked to solve a challenge facing our industries. The teams then utilize professional engineering software to develop their approach and create presentations demonstrating the value of their designs.

The Flying Tigers named their project “THOR.” THOR is an agricultural UAV that can perform early infestation testing, precision spraying and moisture and nitrogen analysis. It’s also capable of carrying heavy loads.

In his congratulatory message to the Flying Tigers, RWDC founder Ralph Coppola said the PHS team “demonstrated innovation by experimenting with the unfamiliar, challenging familiar processes and methods, pushing the limits of current team thinking and adapting or creating tools/processes to increase efficiencies in your design.”

The project’s management team consisting of project manager Cole Wright; assistant project manager/ag specialist Luke Schultz; chief engineer Justin Hoffeditz; operating systems engineer Mason Orr; systems engineer Cameron Hargis; design analysis specialist Jakob Ebner; and design engineer Connor Colmone; they will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national competition on April 22.

Assisted by their support team of Cole Reynolds, Matt Cihocki, Cole Adams, Beckett Conwell and Daniel Naffzinger, the team must now adapt their winning design to meet the increased demands of the national competition.

“We have to fine tune it to make it safer, increase our flight time and to make it be able to carry an increased weight,” Colmone said.

PHS Industrial Technology teacher Tim Ciesielski said the team’s Washington, D.C., trip is being sponsored by Allegion, and the team received valuable input from former Tiskilwa resident and Colby AgTech founder and drone expert Chad Colby.

The only team member to own a drone is Adams, who said he enjoys learning how they and their components function.

Colmone said, “I enjoy finding a unique design and coming up with a way to have it function in the way we need.”

Wright was laughing when he said his biggest surprise of the design process was “that we won state again.”

The team said they appreciate that their work on the design challenges has helped them get to know each other and become friends, while also increasing their knowledge of engineering processes.

According to the RWDC website, the members of the winning national team will each be provided with a $50,000 scholarship to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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