Q: What is a human powered
A: A human powered airplane is just as the name
implies. It is an ultra-lightweight aircraft powered
solely by a person onboard. In our case, the pilot
pedals a bicycle-like crank, which pulls a chain that in
turn, spins a propeller, pushing air, causing the plane
to move forward, forcing air to pass over the wings,
causing the wings to get lift, and ultimately, lifting
the plane into the air (we hope). There are numerous
other designs out there, but ours is one of the
simplest. To see some other human powered airplanes, go
to the Raven website or Birdman Rally Competition page.
Q: So what's so great about human powered airplanes?
A: First off, there are only a few successful human
powered airplanes in the world, so making one of our own
is a pretty cool thing. Second, human powered airplanes
are incredibly difficult to engineer (from experience,
solar cars are much easier). Finally, they introduce a lot
of ideas about lightweight aircraft and require new paradigm,
which has far reaching benefits in all sorts of aviation
applications, and beyond.
Q: Why are you trying to build a human powered airplane?
A: Good question. We are still trying to figure that
one out ourselves. Just kidding :-) First off, we are crazy
to try and build a human powered airplane because of all
the time and work needed to complete it. So why are we doing
this? Mainly for the self-satisfaction of building something
that no other high school in the nation has built. And we
get to meet some really cool people too!
Q: This project is great and all, but what will actually
come out of it?
A: You mean other than a bunch of crazy students, right?
The technology and patterns of thought that have come out
of building human powered airplanes is pretty amazing. If
you are up to date on avionics and high-tech NASA stuff,
you are probably familiar with the Centurion and Pathfinder,
both lightweight, man-less aircrafts designed to fly at
ultra-high altitudes. Well, the company building and designing
these aircrafts is AeroVironment, and the founder of this
company is none other than Paul MacCready--the engineer
behind the first successful HPA, the Gossamer Condor. So
who was it again questioning the validity of HPAs?
Q: How many hours man have been spent on this project?
A: This one's easy...too many to count. We have been
working for the past three years on a daily basis. At least
three times a week we work from 3-5 hours, and in the summer
and on some weekends, that number quadruples. There are
always between half a dozen and a little more than a dozen
people working on the project, and we span four grades.
Q: How much money has been spent on the project?
A: In all, we have spent over $10,000 on the project.
No we are not all corrupt, we do actually go through this
much money on tools, materials, and supplies. Taxpayers
don't fret, because....
Q: Wow! That's a lot of money, where does it all come
A: Almost none of our money comes from the district.
We are primarily supported by fundraising. Numerous companies
have donated supplies and/or money to our program. We are
forever grateful to these people! They are all saints! If
you are interested in helping us, please feel free to call
or email us!
Q: What's going to happen after you fly the plane?
A: We're all going on a trip to Tahiti to get a break
from the insanity of HPA! Seriously, we have no idea. Assuming
the plane doesn't break between the time it gets off the
ground and the time it is back in our shop, we are hoping
some fresh blood steps up to continue the project. If we
can get this plane to fly, it would be nice to redesign
it and make a version that is actually capable of turning
in at least one direction, as long as it's not down.
Q: This is great! I want to make my own HPA, how do I
A: First, go crazy like us because not too many sane
people undertake projects like this (if you don't believe
us, watch the video from the Birdman Rally Competition).
Second, get a lot of money because these aren't cheap. Third,
unless you have tons of experience flying ultra-lightweight,
slow flying aircraft (hey, that just so happens to be your
college major? what a coincidence!), do lots of research.
You can start by looking at the Raven website or the Birdman
Website, both on our links page.
Q: Since I'm not going to be making my own human powered
airplane anytime soon, how can I help you with the Grasshopper?
A: We can use all the help we can get. However, this
doesn't mean we want you coming down in your work clothes,
ready to get it on, because the majority of the time, we
have more than enough hands. You can help us by supporting
us through supplies and donations, or with insurance. Please
call or e-mail us for more information! We would LOVE to
talk to you!