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Seattle STEM students win GAMA design challenge

Raisbeck Aviation High School in Washington bested nearly 50 other STEM aviation student teams to win the 2021 General Aviation Manufacturers Association Aviation Design Challenge that included a test to deliver as many COVID-19 vaccines as fast as possible, from Seattle to Packwood, Washington.

Raisbeck Aviation High School students left to right: Alex Shemwell, Garett Griner, Lyra Young, Jason Poo, and Atticus Bhat. Photo courtesy of GAMA.

The GAMA contest challenged youth to design an aircraft that could maximize the payload of vaccines and successfully land on a small runway surrounded by glacier-covered Cascade Range peaks including the imposing 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) congratulated students Atticus Bhat, Garett Griner, Jason Poon, Alex Shemwell, and Lyra Young “for their ingenuity and efforts.” The chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation added that “STEM education is so important for building America’s future. It is no surprise that the next generation of aviators and innovators is found right here in the Pacific Northwest.”

The high school in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila is located across the street from King County International Airport-Boeing Field in the heart of the aviation and aerospace industry. It was one of the early adopters of the AOPA Foundation’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. The science, technology, engineering, and math program is a comprehensive four-year aviation learning experience that uses a hands-on approach to teach STEM subjects.

The students wrote that “COVID changed everything about how we competed this year: three brand new teammates, no live interaction, and members with insufficient tech at home. We worked through numerous design phases, testing, and compiling data from each to create the final aircraft. Our hard work and dedication to the challenge throughout the pandemic really highlights our deep passion for aviation and commitment to one another.”

The winning team was taught by Steven Chapman with volunteer assistance by Dave Jones. They will be rewarded with tours of the Cub Crafters Inc. manufacturing facility in late August, demonstration flights, and other aviation-related opportunities, GAMA announced in a news release.

Students from 26 states competed in the exercise that incorporated the medical mission into flight dynamics and aviation design processes. Teams used a hands-on “Fly to Learn” approach to study the principles of flight and aircraft design, and then applied the knowledge to virtually modify a Glasair Sportsman single-engine aircraft using X-Plane flight simulator software.

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce applauded the high school teams “for their commitment to learning the dynamics of flight and aviation design even while navigating pandemic-related challenges.”

The Pennington School in Pennington, New Jersey, was the runner-up.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.
Topics: General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Student, Awards and Records

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