With an April 30 deadline bearing down on them quickly, 24 high school teams across the country are scrambling to complete their virtual aircraft designs that will earn two of the teams a trip to Arlington, Wash., to build two real airplanes. The design and build competition pits the 24 teams against one another to build the best aircraft using the sophisticated Fly to Learn software package, which is provided free to the schools as part of a collaboration between the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the nonprofit program Build A Plane.
“The competition targets our future aerospace workforce with the goal of engaging and educating young people through innovative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics outreach efforts,” Pete Bunce, president and CEO of GAMA, explained as he updated reporters on the project at Sun ’n Fun.
GAMA member companies are donating equipment and cash to support the project. Engineers from the companies will judge the student projects. The top two winning teams of four each and their teachers will receive all-expense paid trips to the Glasair factory in Arlington, Wash. There they will work on building two Sportsman 2+2s in Glasair’s Two Weeks to Taxi program. The Sportsman is a four-place kitbuilt airplane that can be equipped with either a tricycle or taildragger landing gear system. Both of the competition airplanes will be taildraggers.
As Build A Plane’s Lyn Freeman points out, “You can imagine how exciting it will be when the kids get to participate in an education competition like this and in the end, see their work actually fly.”
Once completed, one airplane, funded by Jeppesen CEO Mark Van Tine, will be stationed in Colorado where it will be used for Young Eagle flights and other ways to introduce youth to aviation. The second airplane will be based near GAMA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it will perform similar duties on the East Coast. A third Sportsman, built by a Build A Plane team five years ago, is stationed with Freeman on the West Coast.
The winning teams will be notified in May. The builds begin June 17 in Washington. AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Jill Tallman will be participating in the build and reporting on the project online and in AOPA Pilot and Flight Training magazines.