A soaring passion for planes


Courtesy photo

Junior Joe Kwok with one of his airplanes.

Jordan Toomey, Staff Reporter

With senior projects now looming into the picture for the class of 2016, many are picking easy topics they aren’t passionate about. However for one rising senior, this isn’t the case.

“My senior project is going to be a drone,” Joe Kwok said. “It’s going to be a drone that has a five foot wing-span and it’s going to be multi-purpose and so it has a lot of design features and that’s why it can carry two GoPro-sized cameras. It’s designed to take off of any rough surfaces.”

Airplanes and their designs is something that Kwok has been passionate about for a long time.

“Actually I want to study drones,” Kwok said. “The reason why I put cameras on airplanes is not just for fun, I put it on board basically to see how the wing flexes and how the airplane behaves in the air, and that’s gonna help me a lot for my studies of airframe design and wing design and all that stuff.”

The design process for airplanes is generally very complex.
“That’s a bit hard to explain, but really I just get some foam board and I’ll actually draw a pre-cut plan, so I’ll know which part is on what place on the foam board, so that I can just cut all of them out,” Kwok said. “I hot-glue them together into the shape of the airplane, and I actually have procedures that I have to follow. This is a really serious business, it’s not really just having fun, because you’re designing a drone, and you’re flying around 300-700 feet high, and basically have to consider all of the safety restrictions.”

Kwok’s ambition with designing aircraft has not gone unnoticed by his teacher.

“Like every excess minute we have in class he works on his own planes,” engineering teacher Brian Lidington said. “I’m mostly his sounding board, like he talks to me about what he’s gonna do, and just kind of bounces things off to me a lot, like daily probably. So if I think it’s a good idea then I’ll encourage him. Sometimes he comes up with ideas I don’t think are so good and I’ll critique a little bit about the aerodynamics or something like that. You can tell he’s very aggressive about it, like he’s going to go home and build something and bring it back, run it by me and try to fly it and all of that.”

Some of engineering students have found a place to practice with their aircraft.

[Joe Kwok] is part of the Richardson RC Club so we’ve gone a couple times and they’ve helped us learn how to fly, the kids have had a chance to do that,” Lidington said. “Some of them have let them fly their custom planes and everything and it’s really kind of cool. They have a whole airport out on the other side of the lake, and I honestly didn’t know it was there. In their Richardson RC club and they have like a landing strip that’s probably 100-150 yards long and then they have a club house and they’ve got areas where they can fix their planes, there’s a very serious club out there and some of them do the gas planes and the electronic planes and there’s some really big planes.”

Kwok is thankful to his teacher and the engineering class he took his junior year for helping him find his senior project.

“This class helped me a lot, you know I feel really thankful to my mentor Coach Lidington, he’s a really good guy, he actually told me some of his suggestions on my airplane designs,” Kwok said. “I’m  a good airplane designer and builder but I wouldn’t say a really good pilot, among everybody in this class, I just crash. This is a really fun class and it actually taught me a lot of good stuff, and next year I’ll be going to EDD which is Engineering Design and Development. This is a really good course for people who want to be engineers in college because this is a college-level portfolio class.”

Kwok is not the only one in the class interested in aircraft, however.

“I have about three years of experience working with airplanes. I have been a private pilot since last august,” rising senior Joe Korona said. “Mr. Lidington has helped me to see the engineering side of the aircraft. From understanding pilot reaction times and the principles on which the airframe is designed I have a new understanding of why the aircraft is the way it is.

The class has also showed me an intro to what I have to do to design a solar powered aircraft in Engineering Development and Design next year.”

Aside from being a good senior project topic, Kwok and Korona’s interest in airplanes has inspired the whole class.

“[Kwok and Korona have] been really good and in class Kwok tries to talk about how he took the training blades and kind of explained the different surfaces of the aircraft, and how they affect flight and all that,” Lidington said. “And Korona is a pilot so he knows a lot, and they do a lot, so I try to let them lead the class, and it’s really kind of cool and everybody in the class really likes it.”