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NDSU student teams earn medals in physics competition

NDSU students excelled during the recent 2020 University Physics Competition. One team earned a silver medal and another received a bronze medal in the contest held in November.

The international contest is for undergraduate students, who work in teams of three at their home colleges and universities and spend a weekend – 48 hours – analyzing a real-world scenario using the principles of physics and writing a formal paper describing their work.

“Both are big accomplishments, and all six students deserve our recognition and congratulations,” said Sylvio May, physics department chair. “Of the 346 papers submitted in this year's competition, six teams were ranked as Gold Medal winners, 54 teams were ranked as Silver Medalists, 99 teams were ranked as Bronze Medal recipients and 187 teams were ranked as Accomplished Competitors.”

The NDSU team of Kyle Nietfeld, Michael Noah and Ibrahim Bukhari won a silver medal. The team solved Problem B, "Quadcopter Stability in Wind." The students designed a unmanned aerial vehicle drone that has a mass of 1.5 kg, powered by four rotors which can each generate up to seven Newtons of thrust. The team determined the maximum windspeed for safe operation of the quadcopter, so that it can stay within 20 cm of a target location.

Nietfeld is a senior who is double majoring in electrical engineering and physics. Noah and Bukhari are seniors who are double majoring in physics and mathematics.

The NDSU team of Jose Agudelo, Jessica Tsao and Jacob Lundstrom won a bronze medal. They solved Problem A, "Ion Thrusters to Saturn." In the problem, a spacecraft is in a circular orbit around the Earth, with an orbital period of 90 minutes. The spacecraft has a total mass of 5,000 kg, including fuel. The spacecraft is equipped with ion thrusters that can provide a constant thrust of 400 millinewtons, with a specific impulse of 4,000 seconds.

The team’s goal was to place the spacecraft into a circular orbit around Saturn, with an orbital period of 40 hours. Team members determined the minimum amount of fuel the mission would take, the duration of the trip and how the thrusters should be controlled during the journey.

Lundstrom is a junior and Agudelo and Tsao are seniors – all double majoring in in physics and mathematics.

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Last Updated: Thursday, May 06, 2021 1:12:41 PM
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