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.
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.”
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.