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WVU Tech Student Takes on Aviation Design at Summer Workshop

WVU Tech senior, Thy Dinh, knows a thing or two about aerospace studies. A triple-major in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and mathematics, Thy serves as the president of WVU Tech’s S.P.A.C.E. Club (Student Partnership for the Advancement of Cosmic Exploration) and as a member of the Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT).

Thy’s activities, however, aren’t just limited to the academic year. This summer, he was one of only 15 students in the nation selected to attend the inaugural Aircraft Readiness Engineering Workshop sponsored by the North Carolina Space Grant Consortium and hosted at North Carolina State University in Havelock, North Carolina.

Designed to put students in direct contact with aircraft engineers, pilots and manufacturers, the workshop provided students with opportunities to attend lectures and presentations, fly helicopters in a flight simulator and run analytical tests on aircraft materials.

Workshop attendees also toured the Cherry Point and New River Marine Corps air stations, visited a flight mishap investigation facility and toured an aircraft operations line to see engineers and maintenance personnel at work.

For Thy, visiting the investigation facility was particularly impactful. The facility was investigating the crash of a Marine Corps heavy transport helicopter. The incident, which cost the lives of the helicopter’s entire crew, is thought to have been caused by an error during a routine pre-flight check.

“As a veteran, that really hit home. It was an experience none of us will ever forget and it showed that what we do as engineers will affect others, even if we don’t see it,” he said. “Our men and women in the armed forces risk their lives for our freedom, so it’s up to us to engineer something better and consider who’s going to be involved directly and indirectly.”

For their final project, students worked in teams to design and construct an unmanned aerial vehicle. Thy’s team, which included students from Texas A&M and the University of North Carolina, designed their remote-controlled plane to look like an F-22 fighter and dubbed it the Barking Spider.

The Barking Spider was the first plane to successfully takeoff and was the victor in a three-plane aerial dogfight staged at the end of the final competition.

"It was exhilarating to see something we built actually take flight. We placed third overall, but our plane outlasted the others and that’s a great feeling,” said Thy.

Thy said his participation in the workshop would not have been possible without the students and faculty he met in student clubs and organizations. He recommends that students interested in similar opportunities get involved in the S.P.A.C.E. club or in state space grant consortiums. In fact, it was the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s Dr. Majid Jaridi that encouraged Thy to apply for the workshop.

“Last semester, Dr. Jaridi told me that this was an opportunity worth taking. So I took it, and it was the experience of a lifetime,” he said.

Thy will share his experience with first-year student classes during the fall semester.