China’s Birdman Contest Pits Student Against Gravity
Posted on October 5, 2010
Look! It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a bunch of Chinese guys who think they can fly!
Behold the sixth annual China Birdman contest, a competition where teams of ambitious, young would-be engineers launch themselves off a 10-meter-high platform with homemade flying machines. The goal is to stay in the air the longest.
Modeled after more serious competitions like the Bognor Regis Birdman in England, the China Birdman contest pays tribute to Feng Ru, China’s first-ever aviator. It also promotes individuality.
“It gets the students thinking and nurtures innovation,” professor Wang Liang of North China Electric Power University told Reuters. “In China, traditional education emphasizes memorization, but lacks in developing individuality and inspiration.
Unfortunately the Birdman contest isn’t all that popular yet, though it is growing in size each year. In particular, this year’s festivities featured 40 teams from schools all across the world.
One such foreigner was Wasim Muhammed, a lone Libyan student whose badly designed orange hang glider didn’t even last 5 seconds before crashing. Mind you, he wasn’t the only colorfully dressed attendee to fail.
In fact, the majority of the teams failed miserably, which isn’t surprising since their gliders looked more like theater props than actual vehicles of aviation.
There were however two superstars. First up was 72-year-old Pen Xiaoxian, who after three failed attempts managed to paraglide a whopping 59 meters. But the ultimate winner was Tian Xing, a middle-aged man who glided for 62 meters.
To see some of the failed attempts, as well as Xing’s winning glide, check out the clip below.