Lords of the Fly: NVIDIANs Take to the Air with Flugtag

by Brian Caulfield

There was a pack of purple pimps, a team of yellow minions, a giant singing blue bug accompanied by a squad of backup dancers, and a royal procession that made up for its lack of pomp with plenty of circumstance.

More than 500 NVIDIANs crowded into the main quad of our Silicon Valley campus for an afternoon of fearless fun and frenetic flight as 40 costume-clad teams competed in our Flugtag – or flight day – team-building event.

The Power Bugs delivered a knockout performance Tuesday.
Big Blue: The Power Bugs were among the teams putting on a spirited show.

Organized by NVIDIA’s Judy DeSherlia and presided over by King Jonathon I, NVIDIA’s self-appointed Flugtag monarch, teams scrambled against the clock to engineer airplanes that could fly farthest when flung from a pulley – or hit a hula hoop placed in the center of the quad – or at least entertain.

The 10-person teams designed, built and flew their “flying machines” from a pulley mounted atop an eight-foot-tall platform after getting 45 minutes to cobble them together from cardboard and other materials supplied at the last moment. It’s a small-scale version of the event made famous by Red Bull. Human pilots not included.

Fun was as important as flight Tuesday, with teams competing to create the most outlandish costumes – taking center stage before each flight to entertain. Teams such as the NVators created musical acts, complete with elaborate choreography and – in the case of the aviation-themed team’s song – references to NVIDIA products.

Mobile Aces won the prize for sending their flying machine further across the quad than any others, grabbing a Tegra 4-powered HP Slate21 all-in-one PC for each team member. Their secret: a design that put an airfoil towards the back of their plane’s fuselage, explained team member Brian Gibson.

Expect to see the other teams again next year. While an airplane from a team dubbed “The Flying Intern” failed to take any prizes after its tail became tangled on the pulley meant to launch it across the quad, they learned a valuable lesson about what it takes to win.

“Aerodynamics,” Ameya Kamerkar said simply.