Six Virginia Tech students beat the odds.
Team “Rubik's Revenge,” made up of two architecture majors and four engineering students, created a flying Rubik’s Cube and impressed thousands at Red Bull’s Flugtag event on June 23 in Nashville, Tenn.
Flugtag means “flying day” in German, and is an event hosted by Red Bull USA. A crowd of 80,000 was at the Nashville event, the highest attendance at a Flugtag competition since the tradition began in 1991.
The engineers mostly designed the Rubik’s Cube for flight, and the architects mainly constructed the craft’s cart and knew which materials were best to use.
At the event, teams rolled their gliders onto a launching runway above the Cumberland River in Nashville. At the end of the runway, each flying machine was pushed off the edge to fly across the water.
Like most teams, “Rubik’s Revenge” came apart shortly after pushed over the runway’s edge, and crashed into the water.
Judging by the audience’s reaction, though, the crash of “Rubik’s Revenge” was arguably the best of all.
“It was the most spectacular crash of the day, the crowd loved it,” said aerospace engineering major Alex Nette, who piloted the glider as it lifted off and crashed into the water.
“We didn’t plan on having on having a spectacular wreck, but it was completely worth it.”
“Rubik’s Revenge” also impressed onlookers in another way.
Each team performed a skit before launching their machine over the water, and five “Rubik’s Revenge” teammates played scientists in white lab coats, trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube — in particular, two squares out of place.
Nette, who played a janitor in the skit, solved the puzzle. As he did, the two replaced squares revealed the glider’s wings, surprising the crowd who — before the skit — didn’t understand how the machine could fly.
Building the giant Rubik’s Cube was quite a challenge before the six students arrived in Nashville. One teammate’s father, a shop teacher at George Mason High School in Falls Church, provided saws, mills and drill presses to build the glider.
The team tested the flying Rubik’s Cube on an open road in Foxridge using a pick-up truck. Before the seven-hour drive from Blacksburg to Nashville, they divided their Rubik’s Cube glider into five sections for transport.
Teammates were aerospace engineering majors Alex Nette, Ed Massie and Matt Ziegler; architecture majors Gavin Argo and Andrew Montgomery; and engineering science and mechanics major Nathan Ballou.
The design, engineering, and construction of the Rubik’s Cube was not only fun for the six Tech students, but also a learning experience.
“It encompassed everything. In my classes you only do portions of a project — you only design, you only finance,” said Nette, who mobilized the team after seeing a television commercial for the competition.
“This was putting everything together — from cash management to travel, to team organization and leadership. This is probably the best experience I’ve had so far in college.”
Although it’s too late for the Tech team to apply for the Aug. 25 Flugtag competition in Austin, Texas, they will submit an application another competition in Providence, R.I. this year.