DAVinCI Flight:  Design, Fly, & 3-D print your own plane project video thumbnail
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$8,941 pledged of $50,000 goal
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By Davinci Flight
$8,941 pledged of $50,000 goal
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About

DAVinCI Flight is a 3-D multiplayer game built on top of a suite of real engineering design tools. The game is challenging, intricate, realistic, and fun and there are a lot of ways to play and advance.The countless ways to customize a vehicle, and numerous approaches to courses and missions mean no two players’ game strategies or aircraft will ever be the same.This complete ownership of your creations and character makes competition and head to head play very compelling, and even if you don’t realize it you are learning each time you play.

Shape your vehicles
Shape your vehicles

Set in a futuristic lab the player awakens and is presented with a plot composed of a number of missions that require the design and flight of different craft. If you do it right, you automatically learn needed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts, engineering design methodology, and aerodynamics along the way.

Design Lab Workstation
Design Lab Workstation

You can fly your glider design to explore the world and discover surprises, secret levels, and plot elements. As you learn, design, and overcome challenges you can work your way up from a novice player to a master designer, professor, or test pilot.

Prototype Hanger and Lift
Prototype Hanger and Lift

While progressing through the game earning badges and developing your character the aircraft design tools and features gain sophistication until eventually you’re designing and flying an advanced aircraft.

Fly your creations to complete missions
Fly your creations to complete missions

A player can compare and collaborate on aircraft designs with others, and send the parts to a 3-D printer to build and fly in the real world. Under the hood, DAVinCI Flight is based on real engineering tools (fluid dynamics solvers, structural solvers, optimizers, geometry modelers, simulation engines) meaning designs in DAVinCI can be constructed and will work in the real world. 

3-D print working planes from your game
3-D print working planes from your game

The proof of concept prototype for this game was created as part of National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop innovative approaches to STEM education.

The prototype development on this project has been supported by NSF
The prototype development on this project has been supported by NSF

The game is tied to new core curricula engineering learning outcomes that are coming out across the country.  The ultimate goal is to expose players to important engineering concepts and link together the many STEM disciplines through engineering design.  Along the way DAVinCI hopes to inspire, motivate, and unleash creativity worthy of its namesake.

This game is designed to be fun, realistic, and educational. A few of the cool game features include:

  • Futuristic 3-D Lab environment complete with cool technology, details, animations, sounds, and holograms.
  • Custom materials, paint jobs (complete with nose art and stencils), and additional components allow players to put their creative stamp on vehicles
  • Multiplayer flight, and design modes (complete with competitions, leaderboards, part share, and messaging) will allow players to both compete and collaborate in real time on designs
  • Support for 3-D printing allows students to make functional kits or desktop replicas of their designs in the real world
  • Badges, achievements, special abilities, and character development

Secret levels, secret missions, puzzles, limited time components, and plot twists keep you exploring the game for ways to improve, customize, and put your own stamp on designs.  While playing you are engaged in complex missions and actively learning.  The missions are flexible and just like real life design there are infinite approaches to beating them.

Real engineering tools behind the scenes

DAVinCI Flight contains all the knowledge, tutorials, and vehicle design tools needed for your skill level regardless whether you are an aerospace enthusiast, hobbyist, or a novice designer. These real engineering tools have been developed by our team in past work with Universities, NASA, and the NAVY. These tools include:

  • Parameterized vehicle geometry builders
  • Real aerodynamics solvers
  • Real structural solvers
  • Custom analysis engine (to test and optimize your creations)
  • Vehicle cost estimation (for integrating economics into designs)
  • Team design collaboration features
  • Design export to a 3-D printer and test data import

A Game with a Mission

In addition to being fun to play, DAVinCI Flight is the perfect platform for learning and more importantly applying science technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s approachable to numerous levels of player from novice to expert. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be good at DAVinCI you just have to be curious and the game will teach you everything you need to know at your own pace. There are a number of things that make DAVinCI uniquely suited for learning.

First, by its very nature, DAVinCI is project based and multi-disciplinary. Because its game mechanics are design-based DAVinCI touches a lot of subjects and connects abstract concepts to real world activities.Second, the game is not rigidly structured. Completing missions and creating your vehicle is a very open exploration of what works and what doesn’t. It encourages players to pick up new skills as they need them, and gain a better understanding of how things work when their designs don’t work out as they thought. Playing the game promotes a very individualized learning experience, you can go at your own pace, or skip ahead, try new things, and make mistakes. Just like in the real world as no design is ever absolutely perfect, at any point you can replay a mission or parts of it and refine a design. The game rewards players for continual improvement of designs with character progression, limited issue components, game currency, and new abilities. Finally, it is a well-known fact that even experts learn better through real life applications. This is why our team believes that it is absolutely critical to have the ability to 3-D print actual vehicle prototypes from the game, assemble them, and test them. Designing in the game is fun and a powerful learning tool but when you see your ideas become a real life physical and functional aircraft it is a truly rewarding experience. It also helps connect things that may have seemed abstract to the real world.

DAVinCI Flight Supports Learning
DAVinCI Flight Supports Learning

Tools for Learning

Our game is designed for use by gamers, parents, students, hobbyists, and educators both at home or in the classroom.  No matter how you are playing it, DAVinCI Flight will expose you to engineering concepts and STEM learning even if you don’t realize it.  Some features for learning include:

  • Learn and apply the basics of engineering design
  • Extensive in-game help, references, and tutoring allow player to learn as they go.
  • Designed to align with both the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • Math and Science is everywhere in DAVinCI
  • Creating models, combining them into systems, and using them is central to the engineering design process in DAVinCI
  • Conduct analysis and refine designs with plots, and simulation
  • Test design prototypes both with a flight simulator and by 3-D printing flying in the real world

More details on game play and art below

System Requirements:

Windows XP or later; Mac OS X 10.6 or later.  

Minimal: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics card, 4 GB RAM, 2-Button Mouse  

Recommended: Intel Core i5-4430, Nvidia GeForce GTS 750 Ti, 8 GB Ram, 3-Button Mouse, Joystick

Budget Breakdown
Budget Breakdown
Goals and Stretch Goals
Goals and Stretch Goals


We are a team of aerospace engineers, developers, and artists at VSI Aerospace Inc. an aerospace R&D and educational software company located in Ames, IA. Our founders collectively have over 45 years of experience in teaching aerospace engineering at the university level, and over 30 years of research experience in government and industry. We have developed several aerospace design software packages for NASA and the NAVY and are applying many of the same tools and experience to this project. STEM and especially engineering education is a passion of ours and inspired by such competitions, games, and technologies as First LEGO League, KSP, and 3-D printing, we set out with a vision for an engineering design centric game that was as fun as it was educational. The National Science Foundation (NSF) shared of our vision and awarded us an SBIR grant to develop a prototype game. DAVinCI Flight was the culmination of that effort. Now that we have developed functional prototypes of most of DAVinCI’s features we need your support to help us finish it and get the first glider design chapter to market. Currently we have a team of 2 full-time, and 4 part-time employees. Your support will allow us to speed development, add features, add to our team, while maintaining our vision for DAVinCI.

Past and Present Team Members:

Chris Whitmer - Project lead, Engineer/Developer/Creator

Sheldon Kunkel - Engineer, Developer

James Boddie - Game Developer

Eric Ensey - Lead artist

John Brix - Artist

Adam Campbell - Game Developer

Chris Baenziger - Artist

Atul Kelkar - CEO

Jerry Vogel - CTO

 Mission Control

Mission Control Station
Mission Control Station

Design Library

Library Kiosk
Library Kiosk

Layout Mode

Design Mode

Make changes and analyze
Make changes and analyze

Prototype Creation

Inventory and Store

The store room and interface
The store room and interface

Flight Mode

Remote Piloting Station
Remote Piloting Station
Multiplayer Flight Mode
Multiplayer Flight Mode
Drone View
Drone View

 3-D Printer Support

  • Upgraded Print Mode using Internal Structure (Currently Under Development)
Advanced Print Mode Concept (Under Development)
Advanced Print Mode Concept (Under Development)
  •  Current Outer Mold Line Print Mode
Glider in Printer
Glider in Printer
In game model and printed and assembled result
In game model and printed and assembled result
 

To support the design, engineering, flight themes we tried to hit a more futuristic/clean room inspired style for the lab environment and art of our game. Some of our influences were sci-fi films like oblivion as well as games like portal and halo. We also tried to incorporate influences form present day technology whenever possible so that models, tools, and components in the game mirror real world aerospace vehicles, and testing methods.  

Concept Art

Subterranean Lab Layout with Multiple Levels
Subterranean Lab Layout with Multiple Levels
Inventory Concept
Inventory Concept
Robotic Vehcile Builder
Robotic Vehcile Builder
Mission UI Concpet
Mission UI Concpet
Layout UI Concept
Layout UI Concept

Vehicle and Component Renders

Solid Booster Component
Solid Booster Component
Small RC / RPV prop and engine
Small RC / RPV prop and engine


Camera and Sensor Dome
Camera and Sensor Dome
Camera and Sensor Dome
Camera and Sensor Dome
Recovery and Drag Chute Launcher
Recovery and Drag Chute Launcher
Recovery and Drag Chute Launcher
Recovery and Drag Chute Launcher
Small RC / RPV Fixed Gear
Small RC / RPV Fixed Gear
Flight Guidance and Control Unit
Flight Guidance and Control Unit
Upgraded Lab AI Motherboard
Upgraded Lab AI Motherboard
Auxillary IR imager
Auxillary IR imager
Control Surfaces
Control Surfaces

Risks and challenges

The biggest challenge associated with this project is the ambitious scope. The concept of using real analysis and design tools in a game is novel, and the game and environment require complexity in order to support real engineering design. However, our team is very experienced and has developed several software packages for NASA, NAVY and Aerospace industry customers. Additionally, members of our team have developed numerous smaller games. Furthermore we are building the game using the Unity engine because it has excellent support, an active user community, and many quality 3rd party tools to speed up the development. This allows us to focus on the mechanics of the game, and the engineering behind it. Moreover, the concept behind this game has already been validated and received seed funding from the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive and prestigious Small Business Innovative Research Program.

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Funding period

- (60 days)