Recognizing the Next Generation of Aviation Innovators

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Tom Prete, vice president, Engineering, Pratt & Whitney, recently participated as a blue ribbon judge in the national finals of the Real World Design Challenge held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Washington, D.C. The challenge is a national aviation design competition for high school students with the goal of increasing the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.

"The Real World Design Challenge encourages innovation as well as the future generation of engineers and scientists," said Prete. "It was exciting to participate in the event and see such talented and passionate students present their designs."

For the challenge, students were paired with professional mentors from the FAA and other agencies and companies to design a small unmanned aircraft system, including one or more unmanned aerial vehicle. The students also developed a business plan to support the commercial application of their submissions in response to a hypothetical mission scenario that would use the unmanned aircraft system to locate a missing, injured child.

A team of six students from Marianas High School in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands won for designing an unmanned aircraft for search and rescue missions. The students' aircraft — made of fabric, fiber glass, and aluminum — was designed to be powered by an electrical motor recharged by air turbines that use lithium ion batteries.

The Real World Design Challenge began in 2008 through a partnership among industry, government, academia, and non-profit organizations. The partners pooled $263 million in resources and enlisted state governors to bring attention to the program. In its first year, 10 states participated in the challenge. The FAA's Aviation and Space Education Program, in collaboration with Aviation Safety and other lines of business coordinated the agency's efforts in support of the program.

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