Inside the University of Louisville’s Speed Engineering Garage, a team of six students is preparing to take to the skies.
The group is participating in the Red Bull Flugtag, an event inviting local barnstormers to show off their homemade flying machines. Teams build single-pilot gliders and run their creations off the end of a ramp, hoping they’ll glide for a few moments before splashing down into the Ohio River.
UofL’s entry, dubbed “Angry Louie” by designer and pilot Brittany Jarrell, is a PVC-and-plastic effigy of the school’s mascot. Weighing 75 pounds and measuring 25 feet long, the craft is about the weight of a standard hang glider but boasts a greater wing area.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun, that’s what I think is going to happen,” said team member Joshua Scudder. “As far as [the craft’s] performance, it’s hard to say.”
Angry Louie may have an edge on the competing gliders, most of which were designed for aesthetics rather than aerodynamics. His designers pooled the years of mechanical know-how that they’d accumulated in their classes and took cues from nature, using PVC pipe to mimic the hollow bones of birds.
“It took a while to really finalize the design,” said team member Russell Whittaker. “Probably what took the longest was trying to decide what would be the most aerodynamic and make the most sense out of all the ideas.”
But the build represents more than just an opportunity to test their engineering prowess; it’s a chance to come together as friends and classmates to have a good time.
“We’ve been going to school together for three years now, so mostly we know each other,” said team member David Campbell. “It’s been fun working with them, and I think that’s been the best part.”
Angry Louie makes his maiden voyage at the Flugtag on Aug. 27 at Waterfront Park. Gates open at 11 a.m. and admission is free to the general public.
Watch Speed students describe the design process for “Angry Louie” in the video below: