Olney Students Flying High with Design Challenge Win
June 1, 2017
  • Share
  • While many of their peers may be soaking up the sun and avoiding all things academic, four students from Olney High School will take to the skies to celebrate a national award in aviation design.

    The group of students won the fifth-annual General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association/Build A Plane Aviation Design Challenge. The challenge promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics (STEM) knowledge in American high school students.

    The OHS Aviation Challenge Team, according to a Facebook post by Sabrina Laurent, a physics and computer science teacher, “modified a virtual Cessna 172S airplane to be as fuel efficient as possible, carry a maximum payload, and be able to take off and land from designated runways at two airports in Washington.”

    Some 93 high schools from 31 states and the District of Columbia competed in the challenge. By utilizing Fly to Learn curriculum to learn the basics of aerospace engineering and modifying a virtual airplane with software powered by X-Plane, the Olney students earned the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C., to build an actual plane over the course of several days starting in June.

    The team, consisting of seniors Bryant Castro, Michael Gomez, Amber McCutcheon and Kodee Scott, submitted their design on May 5. The submission showcased the proficiency of their plane as the students flew it through a simulation. Their calculated score and an essay of their modifications and a step-by-step checklist of their flight procedures accounted for their win.

    “The chance for our students to compete in the Aviation Design Challenge broadened horizons in ways that we would not have been able to do without GAMA,” stated Olney High School Principal Matt Caffey. “Our students winning is one of the most exciting things to happen at Olney High School this year. The best part is that their learning will continue through the enriching experience they will have at Glasair this summer. We also thank Jim Hirsch of Air Tractor for the time he took to deliver the news to our students in person.”

    Hirsch recently appeared at the high school to make the surprise announcement: First place.

    “These students are about to have the experience of a lifetime building a plane with Glasair’s talented staff, and learning about the many career options that exist in general aviation,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a press release. “We look forward to spending two weeks with this outstanding group, which is the first winning team of the design challenge to include two girls.

    While the seniors plan for their trip to Washington, D.C., which will include one teacher and one chaperone, college experiences await them.

    Kodee Scott will be attending South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, Laurent said, and pursuing an associate’s degree in pre-engineering before pursuing a bachelor’s in architecture.

    Michael Gomez will be attending Texas State University in San Marcos, pursuing a degree in physical therapy.

    Bryant Castro will be attending the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in digital and interactive arts.

    Sponsors, providing round-trip airfare, hotels and meals for the winning team, include Air Tractor, Bombardier Business Aircraft, ClickBond, Embraer, Garmin, Gulfstream Aerospace, Jet Aviation, Jeppesen, JSSI, Redbird Flight Simulations, Siemens, Textron Aviation, Wipaire and Bose. Staff from GAMA will support the build.