July 29, 2020

A team from the Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, GA, is the winner of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) 2020 Aviation Design Challenge.

The Aviation Design Challenge, a competition which aims to promote STEM education among U.S. high school students, provides participants with complimentary “Fly-to-Learn” curriculum and software by X-Plane, which teaches students aerodynamics and basic aviation engineering concepts. Teams then compete with their modified airplane designs in a virtual fly-off.

The winning team was participating in the challenge for the first time. The students were taught by John Friske, who said it was a great experience for all involved.

Riverwood International Charter School - GAMA 2020 Aviation Design Challenge Winners“They embraced the Design Thinking Process and Engineering Design Process that I teach and did everything that I asked of them with a smile and positive attitude,” he said. “It was so much fun watching them have a blast creating everything from a supersonic prop-driven rocket to a 300 ft. wingspan Sportsman that we couldn’t even get to stall. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said the competition, now in its eighth year, continues to evolve, with the curriculum becoming more difficult over time and updating the rules to require at least one male and one female student on each team.

Organizers, parents, teachers and students worked hard to adapt to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited many students’ access to the software and other resources necessary to complete the program, while ensuring students’ safety.

Bunce said the extra effort was worth it for all involved, as the challenge is effective in inspiring some participants to pursue aviation careers.

“We receive notes from design challenge kids throughout their education. Some go on to become pilots or engineers,” said Bunce. “This is a very rewarding program – for the participants, for GAMA and ultimately, for the aviation industry.”

More than 80 high schools from 35 states took part in this year’s competition.

Read more about the challenge.