Jan. 30, 2018

Jonathan Smythe is pursuing a career as an airline pilot. Kodee Scott enjoyed installing the electrical components of an airplane, which may lead her to a career in electrical engineering. Bryant Castro found that he may put his interest in computers and gaming to use working for an avionics company.

These are three of the many hundreds of high school students who have completed the GAMA Aviation Design challenge, which since 2013 has been introducing students across the country to general aviation and the career paths associated with it, which they may never have considered otherwise. With dozens of high school teams competing each year, not just the winning team – which gets hands-on experience working side-by-side with experts as they help build a real airplane – but all those participating get cutting-edge involvement with aerospace STEM education.

“The Design Challenge was a terrific experience for our students,” said Mike Hansen, physics and engineering instructor at Weyauwega-Fremont High School in Weyauwega, WI. “This competition gave them the opportunity to ‘try out’ future plans in aviation. One of our group members was considering becoming a nurse, and now is seriously looking into the requirements to become a helicopter medic. Another student who participated in the competition has been working on obtaining his pilot’s license and had his first solo flight a few months ago.”

At Dunlap High School in Dunlap, IL, students that participated in the 2017 challenge were so excited about aviation that they formed a new aviation club at the school, the first one of its kind in the area.

“That club is now going strong with more than 35 members,” said Teri Brandt, chemistry and engineering teacher at Dunlap. “The students have reached out to local groups and formed partnerships for activities and field trips to increase student awareness of opportunities in the field of aviation.” According to Brandt, students in the aviation club launched a weather balloon last November and are building and flying drones.

At Atlantic High School in Port Orange, FL, aerospace technology teacher Samantha Harrison said that even though many of her students who participated in last year’s challenge were sophomores, “many plan to pursue aviation-type fields.” One of teacher Allison Irwin’s challenge students at Wilson High School in Pennsylvania went on to an aviation college and plans to join the Army and train to fly helicopters.

According to Sabrina Laurent, physics, computer science and robotics teacher at Olney High School in Olney, TX – last year’s winning school – her students on the team learned more than aviation skills: they made important contacts and gained social skills working with adults in the aviation industry.

Registration for its 2018 Aviation Design Challenge filled in record time, and this year GAMA member company Click Bond, Inc. will be the owner of the Glasair Sportsman the winning high school team will help build as its prize.

“This will be our largest competition since we started the Aviation Design Challenge in 2013,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “We have 130 schools from 34 states registered to enter the competition next year, and 105 of them have never participated in the program before. With the addition of our member company Click Bond, Inc. as the builder of record the winning team will help build, this will be our most exciting Aviation Design Challenge yet.”

Learn more about GAMA’s Aviation Design Challenge.