Measuring wingspan

Raymanta
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Measuring wingspan

Postby Raymanta » March 19th, 2016, 12:37 pm

Today my daughter is competing in the state science olympiad competition. For this event, she is using a pair of gliders she constructed herself (with my help using tools and equipment, such as an electric sander, as permitted). As far as she can tell, she is the only competitor not to use a commercial kit.

She phoned to tell me that the judges informed her the gliders she built did not comply with the rules, because the wingspans are greater than 30 cm. In reaching this conclusion, the judges used a tape measure to measure the length of the wing surface.

Of course, the judges are wrong--this is not the wingspan, because the wings of her gliders are not flat, but cut into sections and angled upward. In fact, we researched this very issue when building the wings. Wikipedia says it best: "The wingspan of an aircraft is always measured in a straight line, from wingtip to wingtip, independently of wing shape or sweep." There are various pictures and diagrams you can find through a basic google search about how to calculate wingspan of commercial aircraft that show the same.

She was forced to take a scissors and cut off a portion of the wings to avoid a penalty.

I am pretty angry and frustrated about this, more than she is. The judges appear to have invented their own definition of "wingspan" and demanded that we read their minds and figure that out in advance on our own. Ultimately, I am sure it made little difference in the performance of the glider, and any difference would have marginal impact on her team's overall score--but what is the point of a science competition if not also to learn and understand scientific terms and definitions?

I feel as though my daughter was punished because she took the initiative to build a glider from scratch instead of purchasing a pre-packaged, approved kit, which, arguably, teaches little to nothing about science.

Anyway--I don't know if any of the administrators of the competition read this forum, but if so, may I recommend that the rules not be open to such nonsensical interpretation in the future, and that terms be explained if they are counter to commonly-used (and industry-wide) definitions?

/rant over

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bernard
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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby bernard » March 19th, 2016, 1:47 pm

I'm sorry to hear that your daughter had to modify/damage a plane that must've taken hours to perfect simply because a supervisor could not be bothered to correctly understand terminology used in rules.
Raymanta wrote:Anyway--I don't know if any of the administrators of the competition read this forum, but if so, may I recommend that the rules not be open to such nonsensical interpretation in the future, and that terms be explained if they are counter to commonly-used (and industry-wide) definitions?

I second this; I've seen questions about wingspan on the forums and while the definition is available on the Internet, the clarity would be beneficial to competitors, coaches, supervisors, and volunteers. For this season, submitting an FAQ would be helpful for teams still competing, and for future seasons, since the rules for Wright Stuff (the tentative flight event for Division B next season) aren't so long that nothing can be added, I agree that adding the definition would be helpful and possible.
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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby jander14indoor » March 19th, 2016, 5:35 pm

A very similar story to how I got involved in SO. Different details, was Wright Stuff, had to do with ES telling my daughter where to launch, etc.
First, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's experience. One of the things that tears me up every year is to hear these stories. And ES making up or adding rules is one of my hot buttons.
But, let me mention the fact that SO depends on volunteers to function. Almost every ES is a volunteer and receives no pay for what they do. They do it for the love of helping children learn to love science. Maybe not always successfully as in this case, but for that reason.

So, what can you do.
For your daughter, I hope you reassured her it was not her fault, not intentional, and not out of malice. If she has a good flying airplane, what she learned doing that far outweighs any award she should have gotten. That won't make up fully, but I hope it makes up some.
For yourself, was your daughter prepared to argue her case with the ES? It may not have made a difference, but that is the place to start. And that is a important skill to give all children, the ability to respectfully and fluently disagree with authority when appropriate. Personally I love it when a student politely challenges me on the rules with evidence. Those kids impress me. And it helps keep me from mistakes, I'm not perfect.
Next, was one of the team coaches there to help/backup your daughter? Did you get one there? Did they file an appeal?
There is a proper way to dispute such rulings, you don't always win, even when in the right, but you don't always lose either and only an appeal can change things.
Finally, if suitable to your interests in life, consider taking the route I (and others) took. Volunteer. SO is always looking for competent volunteers in all areas. Pick an area you have something to contribute and make sure its done right. It doesn't have to be forever (17 years for me now, my daughter has grown up and become a national event supervisor too), but capable volunteers are always welcome and valued.

Jeff Anderson
Livonia, MI

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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby Raymanta » March 19th, 2016, 6:16 pm

Thanks so much for your support and kind words. Honestly, I was more aggravated than my daughter was--and in fact she had to tell me that it wasn't a big deal. :-)

She had a great time and she learned a lot about how gliders work--we both did, as I have absolutely no experience in doing anything like this. We discovered an hour-long video on youtube on how to build them, which was an incredible resource and we followed it to the letter. I think the neatest part was learning how to sand the wing joints on an angle so you can create a stable polyhedral wing when you glue it together. We found a blueprint on the internet, and she had to calculate what factor to multiple the dimensions by because it wasn't the correct size. We had a little factory where we made extra parts so we could swap them out as they broke. We learned together, including (simultaneously) how to get superglue off your skin....maybe that part wasn't so fun....

My wife was actually a volunteer for SO, for the crime lab event, since she has particular expertise there. I think all-in-all it was a great experience for my daughter and she was glad she did it. She was really hoping, though, that part of the score would be based on her describing how she built the glider, because she understood exactly why and how everything was made the way it was, which she wouldn't have been able to do even a month ago.

I don't know if she protested the decision, as I heard about it after the fact. It sounded as if her coach/teacher didn't realize the judges were mistaken.

Best,

Warren

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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby bjt4888 » March 20th, 2016, 11:36 am

Raymanta,

Also sorry to hear about the judging error that impacted your daughter. Congratulations to you and your daughter for doing such a great job on the project! I am a firm believer that the hands-on science experience that Science Olympiad provides is such a great benefit to students that it outweighs the issues that almost invariably come up during competition.

I have been coaching the flight events for four local high schools for the last four years and my teams have experience quite a number of judging errors and rule misinterpretations, and these situations are frustrating. Each year I add to the students' "judging preparation/instruction/correction" training. At our regional yesterday we had to deal with a new rule added without notice (eye protection required for Wright Stuff when not specified in the rules) which I have no problem with if it had been done with prior notice. Of course, this caused the students to have to rush back to their homeroom, putting additional pressure on them and making the event run late for the rest of the morning. We also had issues with inaccurate scales that caused my top team to have all four of their rubber motors get weighed as overweight by 0.01 grams (luckily they had many other test motors in their tool box). Of course, we were 100% certain of the motor weights and, all four teams were using motors cut, tied and weighed twice on the same scale on the same day (we sometimes work production line) and all other teams motors weighed by the judges weighed the same as we recorded when making them. This last error most likely cost this team a Regional win (they finished 2nd by 2 seconds with a 18 ft. high flight of 2:34). The good news for my teams was that they put in an outstanding effort all through the school year and finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in their regional for the 2nd year in a row. They rose above the adversity and the focus all day was on the positive experience and the parent's were as excited as the students. Great positive science experience.

I will second Jeff Anderson that a great way to positively change judging issues is to stay involved. It sounds like you and your wife are doing just that; congrats. I have been an ELG event supervisor for a local middle-school invitational for the last two years and I make darn sure that every student has an extremely fair and 100% properly judged experience. I also invite any of the student's that are struggling with the event back after the event closes to learn more about how to achieve excellence (I bring a couple of my gliders as demos and some written materials as handouts and help them reconstruct and trim their gliders).

Keep at it and good luck to your daughter in future Science Olympiads.

Brian T.

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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby SPP SciO » March 21st, 2016, 2:35 pm

I totally agree with the responses in the posts above; this is another one of those sciO-meets-reality learning opportunities.

With regards to the rules - I've always loved, ever since I was a student competitor, the sheer density of the rule books. To a middle schooler, those read like law documents would to a layperson. It takes some careful teaching to walk kids through the rules of the event - not only the What, but the Why as well (for instance, why would the wingspan be a max dimension, but fuselage length be a minimum?) An event supervisor, without adequate preparation, is very likely to miss some nuance in the rules.

Why not create a "simplified" version of the rules, perhaps with a diagram of the apparatus/testing setup/etc? Simply address the major parameters and goals of the event. The official rules would still be there, but the few extra pages could put a lot of students, teachers and supervisors on "the right track" much quicker
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Re: Measuring wingspan

Postby jander14indoor » April 4th, 2016, 3:07 pm

Argghhh, just noticed the difference in wording between the ELG rules and the WS rules on wingspan.
ELG: Wingspan must not exceed 30.0 cm
WS: the horizontally projected wingspan must not exceed 40.0 cm

While the original ES is still wrong and the whole thing about horizontal projection is understood in aeronautics terms, the WS wording doesn't leave much room.

Guess I need to share this story with the rules committee!!

Jeff Anderson
Livonia, MI


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