Sponsors Return to Design Program for a Second Helping of Student Input and Talent

Dec. 6, 2017


Five people, three men and two women, standing outside with their arms around one another
United Rotorcraft are returning to sponsor Team 17026 in the Engineering Design Program. The team will be developing a firefighting water tank for the S‑70 helicopter.

Second-year participants see added value in supporting projects.

First-year sponsors — wowed by students’ ideas and pleased with new hires — are primed for their second go-rounds in the UA Engineering Design Program.

Aimee Dolmseth, general manager of Control Vision Inc., said that the mini-infrared camera project the company sponsored in the 2015-2016 academic year seemed like a good fit for the program. It was suitable for a team of engineering seniors, but sufficiently complex to pose a challenge for their skills.

“The UA is also a subcontractor for Control Vision sometimes,” she said. “We value our relationship with the university and look for any opportunity to foster and support that relationship.”

The company already employs several UA students and alumni, so its hiring managers are familiar with the talent coming out of the university. In fact, Design Day, the culminating event where students demonstrate their projects, helps them stay on the lookout for it.

“The last time we participated in the Engineering Design Program, we ended up hiring one of the students we worked with, Stephen Nguyen,” Dolmseth said. “So, while we might bring financial resources and a project to the students, the value is reciprocal.”

An Outrageously Valuable Program

Mike Slattery, president of United Rotorcraft and a 1988 graduate from the UA Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, called the program “outrageously valuable.”

“It’s the opportunity for students to work on real live things that have relevance within this industry,” he said. “It’s a fantastic jumpstart into a career.”

Not only does he love being able to help out fellow Wildcats, but he found that, last year, United Rotorcraft and its parent company, Air Methods, benefited from participating in a big way. United Rotorcraft sponsored a project called “Patient Isolation and Transportation System,” in which students developed a method for securely transporting patients with highly infectious diseases. Students needed to consider a setup that could be transported by ground or air; could withstand being dropped, vibrated and shocked; and could function in fluctuating humidity levels and temperatures.

“They did a fantastic job looking at each system,” Slattery said. “They’ll come back with an idea on something and you’ll go ‘Oh, wow, hey, I hadn’t even thought of that.’”

This year, the team is working on an external firefighting tank for S-70 Firehawk helicopters. The tank should make the aircraft more capable of immediate response to fires. This technology is particularly relevant in light of the fires that frequently rage through the Southwest and the growing concerns around climate change, Slattery said.

“I think this has been a great thing. When I went to Design Day last year, these kids really, truly knocked my socks off with what they were able to accomplish.”

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