GAMA Launches 2020 Aviation Design Challenge for High Schools

The first project airplane, N970ES (made in 2013), visited Oshkosh again in 2019. Julie Boatman

Most of us learn best through the hands-on application of knowledge. You see this throughout aviation as you apply what you’ve learned in ground school to your actions in the airplane.

Take it another step further: What if you had the opportunity to learn about aircraft design, create your own airplane in sophisticated software, and then test-fly the results? In 2013, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) launched the Aviation Design Challenge to capitalize on exactly this process—and show high school students from around the United States the path to incorporating STEM concepts into the real—exciting—world of flight.

GAMA President Pete Bunce works closely with the Aviation Design Challenge winners as an important component of the mission. GAMA

In August 2019, GAMA opened up applications for its next Aviation Design Challenge, inviting teams from high schools and after-school programs to sign up. Once accepted, the teams will receive a Fly to Learn curriculum to follow, which covers the elements of flight and aeronautical knowledge necessary to take the next step: development of the team's own design using software powered by X-Plane. The students submit their finished work to the board who will then determine a winner. The prize? A two-week trip to "experience aircraft manufacturing," which has in the past comprised of a trip to Arlington, Washington, to build a Glasair in that company's plant.

“All of us that were involved with the Aviation Design Challenge–from judging the designs that were entered into the competition to working with the winning high school students during the build–were thoroughly impressed with the quality and character of the competition participants and the generosity of the sponsor companies,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “We’ll continue to expand this program to new activities in the future.”

This year’s challenge may include alternative prizes as well, as the mission continues to grow. More than 1,800 students have participated from more than 400 high schools across 43 states and Washington, D.C.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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