Student-built electric aircraft unveiled

Designed, constructed, equipped, and made flight ready by students and instructors in a project spanning three years, the innovative electric-powered motor glider is powered by renewable energy.

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Dylan Fujihara, Noah Taniguchi, Mariko Storey and Dylan Dinio.

‘Iolani School today announced and celebrated the completion of its student-built, single-seat E-Hawk experimental electric-powered motor glider aircraft, a project conceptualized, designed and constructed on the school campus.

A ceremony at the school’s on-campus Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership this morning for invited guests, members of the ‘Iolani School community, and media unveiled the innovative aircraft and celebrated the end of three years of work on the E-Hawk Plane Project by students and faculty.

A short program at the ceremony included an exclusive preview of the flight-ready aircraft led by the team of ‘Iolani students and instructors credited with its construction. Following opening remarks from Head of School Dr. Timothy Cottrell, sharing the project’s genesis and construction and congratulating the accomplishment of the school’s E-Hawk team, the students and instructors on the team offered a presentation on the aircraft and led a Q&A session for attendees.

The finished single-seat ‘Iolani School E-Hawk electric aircraft — its model name is EMG-6 — represents a trailblazing first step in the advancement of sustainable air travel that exposed its student builders to engineering, aviation, and project management disciplines. The E-Hawk team’s ultimate goal is piloting the aircraft on flights within the Hawaiian Islands using only renewable energy to power it.

“A decade ago, we opened the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership with the vision of creating an educational space in which students could authentically take on challenging, real-world problems. Over the past 10 years, a lot of this has happened with many successes and failures. The E-Hawk is an exceptional example of our students’ wrestling with a multi-year project that is relevant today and in the future,” said Dr. Timothy Cottrell, ‘Iolani Head of School.

“Empowering our students to become problem solvers and aware of the challenges of the future is what the Sullivan Center is all about,” he added.

The completed E-Hawk aircraft presented today marked the culmination of student work in ‘Iolani’s Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership under the direction of instructor Martin Emde. A faculty member and electrical engineer in the school’s iDepartment, Emde’s career also includes service as a former engineer on Boeing’s 777 aircraft program.

In their presentation today, Emde and student members of the E-Hawk team — Caleb French ’22, Mariko Storey ’21, Dylan Dinio ’21, Noah Taniguchi ’20, and Dylan Fujihara ’19 — explained how they completed the E-Hawk in two very different phases.

Students were challenged to fabricate the aircraft in the first phase, a process requiring them to, among other tasks, fit and weld steel tubing; design and fabricate battery packs; cut, bend, drill and rivet sheet metal; and design, make and program controls and instrumentation making real the E-Hawk’s first flight. Opportunities for the students to engineer the E-Hawk’s electrical propulsion system and custom avionics propelled the project’s second phase.

The EMG-6 was originally conceived by its designers — Brian and Carol Carpenter of Kingsville, Missouri-based Rainbow Aviation — as an ultralight glider. The aircraft’s transformative journey to becoming an electric-powered motor glider, however, was conceived, constructed and completed by the E-Hawk team’s student members — more than a dozen since 2017 — who introduced and contributed multiple changes and additions of their own to the final design.

Asked in a 2021 Kitplanes magazine feature article spotlighting the ‘Iolani E-Hawk team about how various critical project roles were filled, students said choices were based on the diversity of interests and strengths of individual team members. One team member would work on the E-Hawk’s mechanical design while another worked on the electrical design. Others could simultaneously be working on instrumentation software and certifying the aircraft for flight.

In addition, the students were supported by courses and equipment provided by ‘Iolani School’s Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership, such as robotics; mechanical design; fabrication using 3D printers, laser, and waterjet cutters; microcontroller programming; and more.

Though much of the aircraft’s structural components — such as its fuselage, wings, tail boom, and flight controls — were constructed based on the EMG-6’s open-source plans, all of the E-Hawk’s electronics-related components were designed and finished by the students. These include the E-Hawk’s battery modules, main power and instrument panels, instrumentation circuit boards, custom-designed 3D printed parts, and more.

The students’ work throughout the entirety of the three year E-Hawk Plane Project was guided by instructor Emde, who welded the aircraft’s fuselage.

The next phase of ‘Iolani School’s E-Hawk project will encompass continued efforts toward making air travel more sustainable. And though it began its life at ‘Iolani School as an extracurricular enterprise, the E-Hawk Plane Project will move forward as part of the Advanced Innovation and Leadership Project Course offered at the school.

For more information on the ‘Iolani School E-Hawk Plane Project, visit the project’s website at https://ehawk.iolani.org/.

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