Students build UF's first aircraft, will be shown as part of Engineers' Week

A team of about 45 UF students is expecting to finish building an airplane Sunday.

UF’s AeroGators club started the university’s first student-built aircraft in Spring 2013. The aircraft, which holds two people, will be shown Feb. 23 as part of UF’s Engineers’ Week. The plane cost $16,000 to build and was funded by outside donations and sponsors, said Justin Smith, the president of AeroGators. The airplane is almost complete and just needs to pass tests to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration before the club presents it, he said.

Ryan Fiol, the treasurer of AeroGators, said the plane is a kit aircraft, meaning a company provides the parts and instructions to build it.

Smith, 21, said using a kit aircraft was a cheaper alternative to finding separate parts. Since Fall 2015, the club has worked on the airplane at the University Air Center, Fiol, 19, said. Before then, they worked at the former president’s house.

“Over the course of a year, I’ve probably touched each piece of the craft at least once in one meeting,” Fiol, a UF aerospace engineering sophomore, said.

Last year, the club came close to finishing the plane, but they had to start over after the plane was exposed to weather, he said.

“We let it sit over summer in our former president’s yard, and it got humid, so we had to strip out all the fabric,” Fiol said.

The club hopes to sell the aircraft after it’s completed to earn back some of the money spent and use it for future projects, he said. It has to pass the FAA’s tests and regulations. In addition to the title of first student-built aircraft at the university, each member of the club will get to ride in the plane when it’s done, he said. After they’ve finished the plane, Fiol said he thinks it will help AeroGators get corporate sponsors for future projects.

Smith, a UF aerospace engineering senior, said the goal was to help engineering students make concepts learned in class a reality.

“The original goal wasn’t to say, ‘This is the one and only student-built aircraft at the University of Florida,’” Smith said. “But participating in that means a lot to the students.”

They decided to unveil the finished product at Engineers’ Week due to high attendance, Smith said.

“We’re hoping it’ll spur some interest in aircrafts,” Smith said. He’s looking forward to UF students seeing the plane, he said.

“When you see an airplane in the middle of North Lawn, that’s pretty freaking awesome,” he said.

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Locals and students discuss student housing disparities

Gloria Rodriguez is tired of landlords discriminating against her.

Outdated websites and vague posts make the housing search frustrating enough, and it becomes a bigger hassle when many listings prohibit undergraduate students from applying at all, she said. 

“I don’t need to be a doctor to be a decent adult,” the 19-year-old sophomore said.

Although some Gainesville apartments are geared toward students, others are listed as professional or graduate housing only.

One realtor advertised a house near the Mark Bostick Golf Course with a sign that read “no students.”

Rodriguez said she believes landlords assume students party a lot, and that it’s insulting to assume undergraduates are not capable of maintaining a household.

“Less difficult, less competitive classes mean more time to be hooligans,” she said.

Landlords also take advantage of students’ limited options by increasing prices for small amenities, such as patios and fridges, Rodriguez said.

To avoid a lousy experience, she said, enter the housing search prepared.

“Start early, keep options relatively flexible and, for the love of God, choose potential roommates wisely,” she said.

Companies such as Bosshardt Realty and Carl Turlington Real Estate listed houses near UF’s campus and specified the homes “will not be leased to undergraduate students.”

Bosshardt Realty declined to comment, and Carl Turlington Real Estate could not be reached as of press time.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits real estate agents from discriminating against people based on biological factors including age, Laura Garcia, an administrative assistant for Secure Investment Realty, wrote in an email.

However, different rules govern privately owned property, she wrote.

Lea Knezevich, a property manager for Campus Realty, said none of their properties are age-restricted, but that other landlords view undergraduate students as irresponsible.

“Students are young and they are having and going to parties, and sometimes this can lead to costly repairs,” Knezevich wrote in an email.    

She said landlords with small units may benefit from seeking graduate students or older tenants, but those with larger properties often can’t find renters when banning undergraduates.

Knezevich said undergraduate students can overcome obstacles to housing by offering a larger deposit as insurance or by researching Florida’s laws regarding age discrimination.

“We do have some owners that would prefer older students, but in the end, it is who is able to pay the rent,” she said.

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