By Jacob Rude

Senior Dominic Russo’s internship at The University of Akron reflects his eccentric soul and eclectic personality. He was finally able to obtain his internship after contacting fifteen other companies, where none attempted to work with him or even respond to him. His brother, Robert Russo, himself a Bio-Med alumnus, helped Dominic out by asking some of his friends on The University of Akron Aero Design Team if his younger brother could be an intern there, to which they agreed. Russo the younger then got in contact with the team himself, and the members of UAADT loved the idea of having him on board. 

The Aero Design Team is a competition design team for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Design/Build/Fly subdivision, which Dominic describes in this way: “Each year an organization gives rules to a competition that is designed to be impossible in many ways, but it’s real-world problems that companies are trying to solve.” He said, for example, that last year they had to build a scale model bomber designed for an aircraft carrier. This year they have to design a passenger plane that can take off in a very short distance, have a small profile, and have much more power than it necessarily has any reason to have. To test it, they had to carry as many “passengers,” as possible, with passengers being replicated by four-ounce payloads, as well as trail a banner that is as big as possible. According to Russo, the main challenge for the team was to have the plane be able to take off in twenty feet. 

The team built its plane before Thanksgiving, and invited family and friends to a field to see the first and only test flight. The week before the set date for the flight, Russo found himself sleeping on a couch across the hall from the other members of the team for four hours a night between periods of work. On the day of the test flight, they had a plane. To Russo’s surprise, it performed much better than he had thought. They were still working on the plane up until the last minute on the day of the test flight, but it exceeded all expectations. They were able to make the plane fly straight up, and still, it continued to accelerate. Instead of twenty feet, it was able to take off in just five feet. Russo said the plane’s fifteen-minute mandatory flight at full throttle could have been extended to an hour and a half in the air. 

Russo commented on watching the plane take flight for the first time: “It’s a mix of absolute terror and stress, seeing what you’ve been working on for six months in the air, knowing it’s probably not gonna come down in one piece, and just pure amazement and enjoyment seeing that knowing I built that in six days.” 

Russo is planning to attend the University of Akron this fall and looks forward to becoming an official member of the Akron Aero Design Team.

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