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Take your creativity to the skies with SAE Aero Design

Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Michigan Tech’s SAE Aero Design Club! If you’ve ever dreamt of exploring space or wished to take to the skies, this is the student organization for you.

SAE Aero Design has been on campus for over 15 years, but the club as we know it today was revitalized last year by current members who are passionate about aerospace design. “We give students a place to feel like they belong and meaningfully contribute to something bigger than themselves,” Ry Swaty, president of SAE Aero Design, says. “As a relatively small team, we all rely on each other for help and advice, both in and out of team functions.” 

It’s this environment that brought the club together into a tight-knit group of friends, and not just a group of students with common interests. “We bounce back from failures and learn from mistakes, not knocking down any person, but discussing the reasons for the issues we encounter,” Swaty says. “Overall, we support each other in every way possible, constantly growing as colleagues and friends.”

SAE Aero Design’s main focus is to design and build an aircraft for the SAE Aero Design Competition held annually in Florida. Group members come together to creatively collaborate on the design, giving them a chance to learn and improve real-world skills during their time at Michigan Tech. In addition to competition, they also design different aircrafts for fun, like paper airplanes, FPV drones and autonomous gliders. 

Without the pressures of an enterprise, the group allows students to freely pursue their own interests and projects. “We foster a friendly working environment that’s welcome to all ideas, good and bad, where no matter what happens in the lab, we all walk away friends,” Swaty says.

Beyond the opportunities to make new friends and to explore a passion in aerospace design, club members are also able to make great connections within the field. In the past, they met with industry professionals like Lockheed Martin and had the incredible opportunity to observe the newest technologies in the field in action at a SpaceX launch. 

The group also works with other student organizations on campus, such as Mind Trekkers, a student org well-known for their travelling, educational STEM shows. SAE Aero Design assisted Mind Trekkers last year in bringing different demonstrations to local schools in the Keweenaw. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some limitations to the club, but luckily there is still a lot the club can do safely. CAD work can be done remotely while aircraft testing is done outdoors where safe social distancing can occur. The group’s open-fly events and lab sessions (according to Swaty, their 7th floor MEEM lab is “pretty cool!”) are also being planned with safety regulations and limited numbers.

For those interested in learning more about SAE Aero Design, you can reach out to Ry Swaty at or attend their meetings, which are 6-8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Meetings can be accessed on Zoom with this meeting ID: 8475313785. 



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