Erie Senior Design Takes Flight

Tanner David, Staff Writer

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The students of Erie’s Senior Design class are embarking on a similar journey to the last class of Senior Design. Last year the Senior Design class achieved similar feats with obtaining the Lemelson MIT InvenTeams grant. The new class of Senior Design has raised the bar even higher. This team is striving to win the Real World Design Challenge. The prize? Massive scholarships for the prestigious University of Emery-Riddle campuses in Florida and Arizona. The project they are tasked with is an extremely challenging technical problem. The constraints for this project is to create an automated drone that will navigate in urban settings, seeking out and analyzing nearby plant health. The drone must be able to be taken over at any point by a human pilot and must be able to automatically land itself within a 3x3x3 meter area. This project will be mostly funded by alternate grants. We could go on all day of why this task is daunting even for trained professionals. But even more fascinating is the team that is in charge of completing this task.

The team for the job is six students strong, with their instructor and director of the Engineering program at Erie, Mrs. Rasmussen.

Bekah Weigand
Credit Erie Yearbook

The first in the lineup of students is Bekah Weigand. Weigand is a senior at Erie High School. Her role in the team is coding the flying beast to full autonomy. Weigand also takes part on the Erie Women’s Swim and Dive team and has studied under Jake Marshall at the Innovation Center in the area of drone flight and concepts.

Dillon Huselton
Credited: Dillon Hueslton














Next up is Dillon Huselton. Huselton’s role for the team is the communications director. The communications director responsibilities include contacting potential testing sites, mentors, and anyone outside of the mentioned team.

Nicole Schubert
Credited Erie Yearbook

Jack Williamson
Credited Jack Williamson




The third is Nicole Schubert. She is in charge of number crunching for the group also known as the financial/budget lead. Schubert is a part of the Erie Track and Field team.




Number four on the list is Jack Williamson. Williamson is the lead aeronautic engineer and computer-aided design. He also has a background with being on the aeronautic team at the Innovation Center and taking the Unmanned Aerial Systems class offered at the Innovation Center.

Lauren Lindsay
Credited to Lauren Lindsay

Another member of the team is Lauren Lindsay her role is the lead agricultural researcher. Lindsay is also enlisted in the US Navy. 

Ethan Hughes
Credited Ethan Hughes

Ethan Hughes is the sixth member of the team and is the lead systems engineer. His responsibility is to make sure all the separate systems work in unison. Andrew Jordan is the final member and is the CAD lead and responsible  







The team will face many adversities during this project. Many will be similar to what last years team had to face. With working on a team for so long together there will be disagreements. The key to a successful team is talking about these problems through and reaching some kind of compromise. When asked about the biggest challenge that Schubert has encountered she responded with “ The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is finding a place on the team”.

This is because this team is far from the same, they are all from different walks of life and haven’t really talked to each other prior to being assigned to this project. Husselton had a similar view when he stated: ”We need to learn about each other and work better together”

The best thing for the team is realizing that this will be an issue later on and now as the project progresses but the earlier they figure it out the better. Another massive challenge that the team will face is the coding itself.

Early concepts of the VTOL the team will build
CAD production by Jack Williamson

Nobody on the team has had extensive exposure to coding. Although it can be learned, autonomy will be a difficult script. The design of the drone has been mostly decided through unanimous or majority rules. They are planning to create a Vertical Take Off and Landing flight system.

The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey has the same VTOL system the team will use.
Credited US Air Force

Where there is a weakness there is always strength. The team has amazing resources to learn for the project and to build it. With access to the new Innovation Center in Longmont, Colorado and all the instructors and mentors inside, Erie’s team will be a flying sensation. The team also has the advantage of having generally the same mindset of what the drone will look like. The team will have access to many mentors at the IC. The IC also has state of the art technology, such as replicators and numerous 3d printers. With the addition of a wind tunnel, Erie’s senior design team is ready to tackle the challenge of flight. With the capability of flight test indoors and on the flight strip at the IC. The team will present their project to the Embry-Riddle engineering board later on in the year around the months of May and June.

Tanner David
The brand new Innovation Center. The district used 22 million dollars to create this Google-style campus.