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Texas high school team wins design competitionTexas high school team wins design competition

A team from a Texas high school has won the fifth annual GAMA/Build A Plane Design Challenge in a competition of 93 high schools from 31 states and Washington, D.C.

Olney High School of Olney, Texas, will send four students, a teacher, and a chaperone to Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington, from June 19 to July 1 to participate in building an airplane at the Glasair facility.

The challenge, created in 2013 by nonprofit Build A Plane and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for high school students.

“They have no idea that for many of them, their lives are about to change forever,” said Build A Plane Founder Lyn Freeman in a news release announcing the result.

Surprised grins came over team members, followed by joyful hugs and applause as they learned of their accomplishment from Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch, was captured in this video.

“These students are about to have the experience of a lifetime building a plane with Glasair’s talented staff, and learning about the many career options that exist in general aviation,” said GAMA President Pete Bunce. “We look forward to spending two weeks with this outstanding group, which is the first winning team of the design challenge to include two girls.”

The competing teams used the STEM-based Fly to Learn program to grasp the basics of aerospace engineering, followed by their modifying a virtual Cessna 172SP with simulation software powered by X-Plane. Judges from GAMA’s engineering team evaluated the groups’ efforts.

Glasair Aviation President Nigel Mott noted that, “We call it Build A Plane, but really it’s all about building futures, those of students with an interest in science and that of general aviation. The industry needs the promise of bright young people like these. We are absolutely delighted to be a part of this program.”

The competition broadened students’ horizons “in ways that we would not have been able to do without GAMA,” said Olney High School Principal Matt Caffey, adding, “Our students winning is one of the most exciting things to happen at Olney High School this year.”

Ken Baur, whose Glasair Sportsman will be under construction when the team visits Arlington, said he was looking forward to working with the students.

“It is always enjoyable working with young people as they are learning. I’ve communicated with a past builder who was also fortunate enough to work with a previous winning group and he said it was a really wonderful experience,” he said,

Sponsors provide the winning team’s round-trip airfare, hotels, and meals. Sponsors include Air Tractor, Bombardier Business Aircraft, ClickBond, Embraer, Garmin, Gulfstream Aerospace, Jet Aviation, Jeppesen, JSSI, Redbird Flight Simulations, Siemens, Textron Aviation, Wipaire, and Bose.

In 2016, students from Weyauwega-Fremont High School in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, were the winners of the competition, emerging from a field of 76 competing schools.

The nonprofit Build A Plane promotes STEM education through aviation and aerospace by giving students an opportunity to build airplanes. The organization is currently seeking donated aircraft to place in school programs for rebuilding.

Topics: General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Aviation Education Programs

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