Summer of their lives: Mich., Minn. teens to build Glasair

May 14, 2013

High school students in Saline, Mich., and Canby, Minn., learned May 9 that they are about to embark on an action-packed summer vacation. The eight students are the winners of a nationwide aviation design challenge competition sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build A Plane.

The students, along with two teachers and two chaperones, will head to the Glasair Aviation headquarters in Arlington, Wash. Beginning June 17, they’ll spend two weeks building two Glasair Sportsman 2+2s, guided by Glasair staff as part of the company’s Two Weeks to Taxi program. The goal is get the airplanes tested and flyable in time to travel to EAA AirVenture, which kicks off July 29.

Students at Saline High School, Saline, Mich., and Canby High School, Canby, Minn., submitted the winning designs out of a field of 27 schools in 22 states. The schools used “Learn to Fly” software that allowed them to design and test fly a virtual aircraft. The designs were put to a virtual fly-off and scored on aerodynamic and performance parameters.

The team from Saline, Mich., had never attempted an aeronautical design in their computer-assisted design/computer-aided manufacturing pre-engineering class, but that didn’t stop them from taking on the challenge. Instructor Ed Redies said the team worked on the contest throughout the month of April. “The kids were so excited” and their proud instructor was “jumping out of my skin” when they learned they had won, he said. The Saline team includes Julia Garner, Kyle LaBombarbe, Lee Luckhardt, and Aidan Muir.

Redies may be especially suited to lead his team in the project. A private pilot and AOPA member, he traveled to Washington in 2011 to build his own Glasair Sportsman 2+2, which he now flies from a 1,500-foot grass strip behind his home.

Canby’s team—John Deslauriers, Wyatt Johansen, Leah Schmitt, and Brandon Stripling—are enrolled in an elective course in which students complete private pilot ground school and can take a knowledge test at its conclusion. Designing an airplane gave the students hands-on experience with some of the principles they study, according to instructor Dan Lutgen.

Canby’s design used an RV-10 as its jumping-off point. Successfully flying their design in a simulator proved to be the one of the toughest parts of the process, but was also the most fun, the students said.

“To see the skills, ingenuity, and creativity these students demonstrated in this competition gives me great confidence in the future of our industry’s engineering, maintenance, and pilot workforce,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a news release. “This valuable experience promotes the real-world value of [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education, as well as the career opportunities available in the aerospace engineering field.”

The winning teams receive roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, and field trips to the Boeing Aircraft Factory and the Museum of Flight in Seattle—a busy schedule as they roll up their sleeves and begin assembling the metal and composite 2+2s. Glasair employees will be on hand to assist, which Glasair President Nigel Mott called “a great mentoring opportunity for our team and a wonderful learning opportunity for these students.” Build A Plane President Lyn Freeman said the students’ progression from designing a virtual aircraft to building a real one will boost their confidence and hopefully shape their future.

Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman will be chronicling the projects. Look for updates on AOPA Online and in the Reporting Points blog, as well as an article in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. You also can follow the students’ progress on GAMA’s Facebook page.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman | AOPA Technical Editor, AOPA

AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.