GAMA Announces 2021 Aviation Design Challenge Winners

A team from Washington’s Raisbeck Aviation High School takes top prize.

A team from Raisbeck Aviation High School (RAHS) in Tukwila, Washington, came out on top as first-place winners in the recent 2021 General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Aviation Design Challenge, beating nearly 50 high school teams representing 26 states. The team from The Pennington School in Pennington, New Jersey, was the second-place winner.

This year’s Aviation Design Challenge mission was to modify a Glasair Sportsman to virtually fly as many COVID-19 vaccines as fast as possible from Seattle, Washington, to Packwood, Washington, using X-Plane flight simulator. The teams needed to design their aircraft to maximize transportable payload and successfully land on a small runway, surrounded by high terrain. Judges scored the teams based on performance parameters, a checklist of steps involved in the demonstration flight, and a video submission in which the team summarized what they learned.

Members of the first-place team from RAHS include Atticus Bhat, Garett Griner, Jason Poon, Alex Shemwell, and Lyra Young. Their design included the addition of spoilers, installation of retractable gear, and a narrowing of the Glasair’s fuselage profile to reduce drag. Their first-place prize includes a unique general aviation manufacturing experience at CubCrafters, tours of GAMA member company facilities in the Seattle area, demonstration flight opportunities and much more.

During the first portion of the challenge, teams used complimentary “Fly to Learn” curriculum to learn the principles of flight and airplane design, which is developed in alignment with national STEM standards. During the second portion of the competition, teams applied their knowledge to virtually modify an airplane design and compete in an X-Plane fly-off.

“We are extremely proud of the work done by the winning teams from Raisbeck Aviation High School and The Pennington School,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA’s president and CEO. “Their submissions showed a sophisticated grasp of aircraft design for accomplishing an important and timely simulated mission—delivering COVID-19 vaccines to a remote area. In the coming weeks, we look forward to offering these teams unique experiences that showcase the rewarding opportunities available in the general aviation industry. We also want to applaud all the teams that participated in the ninth annual GAMA Aviation Design Challenge for their commitment to learning the dynamics of flight and aviation design even while navigating pandemic-related challenges.”

The Raisbeck Aviation team was taught by Steven Chapman, with volunteer assistance by Dave Jones. “Without the opportunity to hold GAMA meetings in person, the five of us had to be self-driven, organized, and hold each other accountable throughout the design and testing process,” the team said. “COVID changed everything about how we competed this year: three brand new teammates, no live interaction, and members with insufficient tech at home. We worked through numerous design phases, testing and compiling data from each to create the final aircraft. Our hard work and dedication to the challenge throughout the pandemic highlights our deep passion for aviation and commitment to one another.”

Members of the second-place team from The Pennington School include William Arthur, Nicholas Callan, Gavin Cui, Sebastian Drezek, Jonathan Eaton, Michael Krajci, Avani Prakash, Charles Sanders, Elias Sebti, Jack Wang and David Zhang. They will receive a two-day Redbird Flight Simulations STEM Lab Camp. The Pennington School team was taught by Ryan Vogt.

The 2021 Aviation Design Challenge sponsoring companies include Bombardier, Cirrus Aircraft, ClickBond, CubCrafters, Daher, Embraer, Eviation, Garmin, Gulfstream Aerospace, Hartzell Propeller, magniX, Redbird Flight Simulations, Signature Flight Support, Textron Aviation and Wipaire. Sponsors provide financial support for the competition as well as in-kind donations.


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