Mount Union Engineering, Business Students Take Flight in Personal Electric Paraglider

June 01, 2017

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Hands-on learning experiences at the University of Mount Union can happen on campus, in the community, or in this case, a few hundred feet in the air.

Five students, Benjamin Kelley ‘18, Ryan Studer ’18, James Shaffer II ’18, Nick Latchford ’18 and Quinn Whitehead ’17, built an electric-powered paraglider from scratch as a project in Dr. Chad Korach’s Product Design and Development course. Mount Union’s Product Design and Development course integrates business skills and creative design together through an established relationship between the Departments of Engineering and Economics, Accounting and Business Administration (EABA).

The “pEgaSUS Electric Powered Paraglider” had a defined mission of “providing powered paragliding (PPG) pilots with a sustainable, portable and easy to use paraglider comparative to IC Engine counterparts.” Its differentiators included being electric, lightweight and portable. 

The group went farther than simply conceptualizing the idea, as the paraglider had a successful first flight before the end of the spring 2017 semester. 

“I want to be a design engineer after I earn my bachelor’s degree, so naturally, I was eager to take on this complicated design project and put what I have learned in and out if the classroom to the ultimate test,” Kelley said. “When the paraglider took flight, and stayed in the air for that matter, it was one of the most fulfilling moments of my entire engineering career thus far.”

“I think the most challenging aspect of the project was the time limit we had to work with,” Whitehead said. “This was a very involved and complicated project to bring to life in a single semester. Fortunately, I was able to work with an outstanding group and we were able to turn this idea into a working/flying prototype before our deadline.”

Group Working on Paraglider

Whitehead, a business management and geology double major, has flown paragliders before, but he had never built one from scratch and felt he learned a lot from collaborating with a group of engineers.

“For me, the coolest part about this project was building it from the ground up and manning the first test flights,” Whitehead said. “It was a very rewarding process and the teamwork was exceptional.”

“The coolest aspect of this project to me is seeing multiple undergrad disciplines working together with professors and outside resources to achieve the same innovative goal,” Shaffer said. 

“The ability for Mount Union engineers to be able to work closely with business students and apply business skills in an engineering project are one of the pillars of the Mount Union engineering experience,” Korach said. “These are life skills that the graduates will be able to take away to their careers, and all of this would not be possible without a continued collaboration with Professor Michael Kachilla in the Department of EABA.” 

The group presented its idea at the first Engineering Design Expo held on Mount Union’s campus on April 27. The event was sponsored by the Department of Engineering and the Center for Student Success and it featured 11 different group projects that were brand new ideas or successful continuations on ideas from previous years. 

Get more information about Mount Union's mechanical engineering program.

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