McIntosh drone team wins national competition

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McIntosh Aeronautics is back on top. The MHS drone team won the national competition hosted by the Academy of Model Aeronautics at the EAS AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, WI.

After winning three-straight national titles, the Chiefs were runner-up last summer. They avenged that loss and emerged again as the best team in the country.

“We have been working hard on the drone all year, through exams, vacations, and our other commitments,” said team member Aadhav Sundar. “It was great to see all of our innovation and practice pay off at the competition.”

Out of the many teams that qualified through their region, the top eight were invited to compete in the national competition.

“It was so much fun and rewarding,” said Arinze Ugbajah. “Even if we didn’t win I would say that the experience was well worth it, and I learned so much from everyone and everything.”

The teams presented their drone’s engineering design process, completed impromptu programming, and ended with a 30-minute challenge task. This year the bar was raised as teams were asked to plan, build, and program their team’s drone to autonomously fly to three locations, pick up three objects, and place each in a designated location.

“It was exciting as their teacher and coach to see the students take on such a challenging task, strut with it, and come out winners, not only in the competition but in their own lives,” said coach Seth Bishop. “It’s when we get pulled outside our comfort zone and have to learn something new that we really grow and learn how powerful we really are, and they crushed it.”

The team was eager to regain their title. It was personal for team captain Marc van Zyl, as the team was started by his older brother Robbie, who led the team to its first national title.

“Finally, all the late nights, stressful practices, and innovative ideas have come together to win us the competition,” he said. “Ever since we kicked into really high gear at the start of summer, I have been dreaming about the payoff, and now we have it!”

The championship team is Marc van Zyl, Arinze Ugbajah, Aaron Maeder, Matthew Villiger, Arthur Richez, Vaughn Casarez, Aadhav Sundar, Connor Johnson, and Om Malavde.

“It was amazing to see the team grow closer together through the process, causing our time in Wisconsin to be an unforgettable experience,” said Vaughn Casarez.

The squad is coached by Seth Bishop, Gerrie van Zyl, and Alex Richez.

“On a complex system like these drones, there are always things that will go wrong, but it’s how teams respond to these setbacks that really shows how prepared they are,” said coach Gerrie van Zyl. “The Chiefs were able to quickly adjust, get back on track, and did not display anything but confidence in front of the crowd and judges watching.”