VT Students Go Head-to-Head With Homemade Drones

Blacksburg, VA - Thursday Virginia Tech is hosting a first of its kind competition combining two emerging technologies that could one day be used to save lives. The Additive Manufacturing Grand Challenge is designed to get competitors to dream up different ways to apply drones and 3D-printing to high risk areas like combat zones. It's an idea that, one day, could streamline the delivery of important needs.Bedford's Logan Sturm is part of more than a dozen teams at the university competing. "It's a really neat idea to combine robotics with 3D printing," said Sturm.Also known as drones. It isn't a classroom assignment, but the lessons are likely just as important. The idea is to help a process that would utilize 3-D- printers in a way that will allow frontline troops, or rescuers, to make a wide variety of items that would not be available under the difficult conditions."So you don't know what you need going in, perhaps, maybe you need a ground vehicle; maybe you need an air vehicle - if you can deploy it and print it quickly you don't have to ship in all of those parts and try to assemble it," said Sturm. Dr. Chris Williams leads the department that has put Virginia Tech on the front lines of the emerging 3D printing industry."Our research has sort of pushed the boundaries of what the technology can do. And that's part of this competition: To demonstrate that these technologies that were once meant to make prototypes can be used to make real, functioning vehicles," said Williams.Which to Sturm has its own benefits beyond learning and or winning."It's definitely neat to see our designs are being looked at and perhaps setting the groundwork for a future library of parts, basically.Thursday's event is open to the public and will kick off at 9:30 with the ground competition. The aerial portion of the competition begins at 1:00.The Additive Manufacturing Grand Challenge is being held in Rector Field House across from Lane Stadium. The teams aren't just vying for bragging rights there is also $15000 in prize money up for grabs as well.