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Interview with the Airbus Sloshing Rocket Workshop finalists

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The grand final of the Airbus Sloshing Rocket Workshop 2021 took place on the 28th of July. The four finalist teams were selected among all the others thanks to their wonderful projects and reports, and we finally have a winner! The gold medal goes to “Rocket Buddies” from the University of Beira Interior (Portugal). In second place we find “ESE Team” from the University of Pisa (Italy), “Beoavia” from the University of Belgrade (Serbia) arrived in third place, and lastly, in fourth place, there’s “Neptunus” from the University of Bologna (Italy). From the Communication Working Group, we would like to congratulate all the teams and thank them for the time they spent answering our questions. Below, before the interviews, are the words the participants chose to describe their wonderful experience.

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Rocket Buddies

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Please present yourselves, Rocket Buddies.

Our team is formed by five Aeronautical Engineering students: Diana, Inês, Joana, Francisco and Luís. We are all aged 21-22 and attend the University of Beira Interior in Covilhã, Portugal, where we met back in 2017. Our eagerness in taking a challenge and learn more about rockets and sloshing made us participate in this competition. We are very happy that we decided to do so, because we learned a lot through this experience and developed very important team working skills.

What knowledge did you acquire thanks to this competition?

It is safe to say that thanks to this competition all team members learned about sloshing and its effects. Most of us had no idea about this topic at the beginning, but now we think we have acquired a solid understanding of it. Nevertheless, we have only scratched the surface and there is still a lot that can be done in this field. With this competition, we also got the opportunity to deep dive into the amazing world of water rockets. We learned a lot about them, also by carrying out some experimental testing. Lastly, we greatly improved our organizational and time management skills, since most of the project was done during lockdown and through video calls.

How did you come up with the name of your team?

We are all good friends and share a passion for rockets, so the name Rocket Buddies seemed like a perfect fit to represent our team. One of our members had the idea right when we decided to participate in the competition.

What tools or software did you use for your project?

For our project, we had to use multiple software. Some we had used before, others we had to rely on tutorials online to learn how to use them. It was a great learning experience! The software we used are: ANSYS, MATLAB, CATIA V5, OpenVSP, XFLR5 and Microsoft Excel. It was challenging but also very educational since these are all very important in the engineering world.

Lastly, describe your project in just one sentence!

Demanding, yet fun!

ESE Team

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Please present yourself, ESE Team.

We are three students at the University of Pisa and we met each other during our bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering a few years ago. Currently, Emanuele Luzzati and Soufiane Essakhi are enrolled in the first year of the master’s degree in Space Engineering, whereas Edoardo Simonelli is in his first year of the master’s degree in Robotics Engineering.

What are your opinions on the competition?

This competition was very exciting, and the various seminars organised by the experts were interesting and gave us the possibility not only to improve our previous skills, but also to learn several new things. Moreover, through the seminars and the suggested readings, we had the opportunity to investigate the sloshing phenomenon and to acquire valuable knowledge that we can use in our future careers.

What skills did you improve and what did you learn thanks to this competition?

Above all, we realised that the most important thing to succeed in such a long and multidisciplinary project is team organization. In fact, during the three months of work, we changed plans many times and the timing mistakes made us understand the importance of soft skills. Thanks to this experience we learned how to work efficiently as a team and how to synthesise an articulated work in just a few effective phases. Additionally, we developed several technical skills. At first glance, the sloshing phenomenon could appear chaotic and complicated, but it can be precisely controlled during flight. We also studied how to solve the most general optimisation problems both manually integrating and programming and, lastly, we improved our knowledge on composite materials.

What tools or software did you use for your project?

We used a wide variety of tools: from the hardware side the key instruments for the success of our project were our two 3D printers, with which we printed the nozzle in reinforced nylon carbon fibre and other parts with weird shapes in lightweight PLA; as software instead, we employed MATLAB for the design phase, Xfoil for the aerodynamics’ optimisation, and many different programs for the validation and simulation, such as ANSYS, Simulink and PSOPT. Lastly, we defined the precise rocket’s dimensions by modelling the structural response of the tank using SolidWorks.

If you had to describe your project in just one sentence, what would it be?

We designed, built, and launched a sloshing water rocket glider with deployable wings actuated with springs and opened at the right moment during the flight, to optimise the maximum distance travelled and time.

Beoavia

 

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Please introduce yourself, Beoavia team.

Beoavia is a student aerospace association from Belgrade, Serbia, and a member of EUROAVIA. Our organization was formed in 2018 and nowadays we count a total of 50 members. Since then, we have participated in multiple competitions, including the ASRW 1st and 2nd editions. The team that participated in this competition consists of: Djordje Trampa (Project Leader), Bozidar Simovic (Aerodynamics), Diana Sekulic (Electronics), Aleksa Galic (Manufacturing) and Nikola Stojiljkovic (Structure).

Was there a funny moment you experienced during the competition?

The whole manufacturing process was very fun to go through, from simple constructions to experiments. The funniest moment we experienced during the competition was when our propulsion tank was ready for the launch experiment. After confirming that the thrust release mechanism was working, we went with our professor on a nearby parking lot where he wanted to see the experiment himself. Considering Murphy’s Law, the mechanism failed and caused our professor to get soaking wet due to the water jet. Thankfully, he laughed it off, even though it ruined his suit and coat.

What tools of software did you use for your project?

We have used various tools which assisted for the completion of our work. The most important feature in our project is the creative method we used for the formation of the sloshing tank. We have decided to make it by thermoforming PET polymer resin. The idea came into our minds when our project leader walked by a piece of thermoformed plastic in our university hangar that was used for optics purposes. We have constructed the tools for thermoforming which were simple and effective and enabled us to create many sloshing tanks in a fast and cheap way.

 What part of the competition did you enjoy the most and why?

The most exciting and useful part of the competition, in our opinion, includes all the experiments and validations we performed. We are very happy to have had the opportunity to perform many different experiments that were creative and low cost. Moreover, each of us gained a free licence for the SimScale software which greatly contributed to the analysis of the effect of sloshing in our reservoir. Later, we managed to perform experiments that validated our simulations on SimScale: this undoubtedly constituted the most satisfying part of the competition!

To conclude, describe your experience in just one sentence!

A splashing experience!

Neptunus

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Please introduce yourself, Neptunus team.

Our team is composed of five people: Andrea Curatolo, Chiara Pennuti, Johan Birnie Hernández, Raffaele Borgognoni and Tommaso Fadda. We are all friends and aerospace engineering students currently completing our master's degree at the University of Bologna. Our team is the first to have participated in a EUROAVIA competition since the foundation of our association, AS Forlì-Bologna, back in 2019. We are very happy to have been chosen as finalists and we hope many other teams from our association will participate in these enriching competitions in the future!

Was there a funny moment you experienced during the competition?

We were in the library and it was the first time we had an in-presence meeting since the beginning of the competition. We were discussing the speed that could have been reached by our aircraft, making numerous assumptions and difficult calculations. At a certain point, in an attempt to have a more practical feeling of the problem, Andrea measured the length of the desk and started running in the room trying to match given speeds in meter per second. Not satisfied, Raffaele built a paper plane and threw it several times, while the other members of the team were timing it. In the end, we were able to make more reasonable assumptions on the speed of our aircraft.

What skills and knowledge did you acquire thanks to this competition?

For sure we increased our knowledge in the topic strictly related to the competition, like the analysis of the sloshing phenomenon and the design of a water rocket. But we also have to mention all the soft skills we acquired: we improved our team working abilities and we learned how to maintain effective communication, we refined our capacity in setting and respecting deadlines and how to properly justify the design choices in a project.

How did you form the team and come up with its name?

The deux ex maxina responsible for the creation of the team is Chiara. She really wanted to have a team from EUROAVIA Forlì-Bologna participating in this competition, so she was very effective in convincing her friends and colleagues to take part in it. The result was a strong and cohesive group, that worked in harmony from the beginning to the end of the competition. With regards to the name instead, Andrea came up with the idea of calling our team Neptunus and the other members were happy with it. Neptunus is the name of the Roman god of freshwater and the sea, but it is also the name of the only planet in our solar system which was predicted via mathematical calculations and then confirmed by empirical observations. Furthermore, it is also represented in a famous statue located in the homonymous square in Bologna.

By Elena Tonucci, Communication WG


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