Las Vegas high school wins Build A Plane competition

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and Build A Plane announced today that the Formula X team from Sunrise Mountain High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the winner of the second Aviation Design Challenge to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills among U.S. high school students.

Four students, a teacher, and a chaperone from the high school will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington, to build a real Glasair Sportsman airplane from June 16-28.

This year’s competition attracted 79 entries from schools in 33 states plus Washington, D.C., nearly triple the number of entries in 2013.

As part of the contest, students used “Fly to Learn” curricula and training to learn the fundamentals of aerospace engineering and flight, and used software powered by X-Plane to apply what they learned by designing and flying their own virtual airplane.

Each school modified a Glasair Sportsman airplane to fly from one airport to another, and was scored on how much payload the plane carried, how much fuel was used, and the time the flight took.

Judges from GAMA’s engineering team selected the winning school, taking into consideration the design features based on what the students applied from the curriculum, as it relates to aerospace engineering principles.

The students also submitted a one-page essay on how the competition enhanced their knowledge of STEM. In its essay, Sunrise Mountain High School wrote, “We will always remember this amazing experience and some of us are already thinking about becoming pilots and engineers.”

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said, “Last year’s competition was life-changing for the students, with seven of the eight winners saying they now plan to pursue a career in aviation. The strong interest this year’s contest generated — and the extremely impressive quality of the entries —shows the high level of talent, dedication, and enthusiasm that exists for careers in general aviation, which is critical as we build our future engineering, assembly, maintenance, and pilot workforce.”

Build A Plane Executive Director Debbie Phillips added, “As a teacher, I know firsthand the challenges to making curriculum come alive for the students. This exciting program has not only motivated the students to develop their STEM skills in the classroom, but they can now apply that knowledge as they help to build an actual airplane. It’s an amazing learning opportunity for them.”

Under the guidance of staff from Glasair, GAMA, and Jeppesen, the students will help to build a Glasair Sportsman, a metal and composite airplane that seats four adults. Sold as a kit, the plane can be assembled with assistance in just two weeks through Glasair’s well-known “Two Weeks to Taxi” program. Nearly 200 planes have been built through the program.

Glasair is providing the airplane, staff resources, and workspace for the students. GAMA member companies are supplying round-trip airfare, hotels, meals, and field trips to nearby aviation sites of interest. GAMA and Jeppesen staff will be present throughout the build to offer assistance.

“When the students arrived last summer, they thought they would be watching the Glasair staff build airplanes,” Glasair President Nigel Mott said. “They quickly learned they were the ones doing the building. Mentoring the students and watching how much they grow as builders and as people was highly rewarding for all of us at Glasair Aviation, and we can’t wait to welcome the newest winners to our facilities to build another Sportsman.”

To watch the plane being built, visit GAMA’s Facebook page.

For more information: gama.aero, buildaplane.org, glasairaviation.com, and flytolearn.com.

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