GAMA Announces 2018 Aviation Design Challenge Winning Teams

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has announced that Erie 1 BOCES Harkness Career and Technical Center in Cheektowaga, New York, is the winner of the sixth annual Aviation Design Challenge and St. Croix Lutheran Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, is the second-place winner. The Design Challenge, created in 2013, promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education through aviation curriculum among U.S. high school students. GAMA will send four students, one teacher and one chaperone from the first-place team on an all-expenses paid trip to help build a plane at Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington, from June 17 to June 30. The second-place team will receive a two-day Redbird Flight Simulations STEM Lab Camp, hosted at their high school campus.

“I am very excited about how the Aviation Design Challenge has progressed over the years, with more schools participating and more GAMA member companies lending their support to the program,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “While meeting with 140 members of the U.S. Congress this month during our annual GAMA Hill Day, our board members heard the message loud and clear that programs like the Aviation Design Challenge and other STEM initiatives our member companies host and support are critical to ensuring we have the pilots, engineers, assembly and maintenance technicians, and leaders to keep the general aviation industry growing in the future.”

The 2018 competition included registrants from 130 high schools spanning 39 states. The teams used Fly to Learn curriculum to learn the basics of aerospace engineering and then applied that knowledge by modifying a virtual airplane with software powered by X-Plane. The software scored the aircraft based on the payload, the length of the flight and the amount of fuel burned. In addition, judges from GAMA’s engineering team evaluated a summary of modifications each team made to the virtual Cessna 172SP, a checklist of steps involved in the demonstration flight and a video submission in which a student from the team or the team summarized what they learned.

“Hands-on experience with industry offers a tremendous value to student learning,” said Director of Erie 1 BOCES Career and Technical Education Michael Capuana. “As we need more young people to enter STEM careers, all efforts to increase student engagement are embraced. Thank you to GAMA and its partners for their efforts; this opportunity is truly one of a kind.”

“The opportunity for our STEM Capstone class to take part in the GAMA Design Challenge allows the students see what it’s like to work with the theoretical science and the engineering involved in aviation,” said St. Croix Lutheran Academy High School Principal Richard Gibson. “The trip to Wipaire, Inc. allowed the students to see real life application of design and manufacturing. Thanks to GAMA for sponsoring this challenge. Because of the Lab Camp provided by Redbird Flight Simulations, St. Croix students will be able to continue to apply the skills they learned in the Aviation Design Challenge. As a school, we are looking forward to the Flight Simulation STEM Lab Camp.”

“Introducing the younger generation to aviation and giving them hands-on access to it through initiatives like GAMA’s Aviation Design Challenge is an important investment into the future of the aviation industry,” said Phil Straub, Garmin executive vice president, managing director of aviation and GAMA chairman. “On behalf of the GAMA board and Garmin, we are delighted to be a part of a program that offers an inspirational and memorable experience for these deserving students that they’ll cherish for years to come.”

Click Bond, Inc. President and CEO Karl Hutter said, “Congratulations from Click Bond to the first place Design Challenge team from Harkness Career and Technical Center. We look forward to celebrating together in Arlington, working side-by-side with you in building the Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and introducing you to Click Bond’s technology as you learn new skills and experience the joy of bringing a real aircraft to life!”

“Congratulations to the students of St. Croix on this accomplishment,” said Redbird Flight Simulations President and COO Charlie Gregoire. “We are excited to host this aviation STEM Lab for such bright and talented young people. There is no better platform to introduce and apply a broad range of STEM topics than aviation. The activities highlighted in this lab combined with the simulators will give these students a much richer understanding of what aviation has to offer and will start them down a path toward a rewarding and successful career.”

“As a graduate of St. Croix Lutheran High School, I am delighted to see their team receive the Redbird STEM Lab prize in the GAMA Aviation Design Challenge,” said Wipaire President Chuck Wiplinger. “As a business leader/owner and GAMA board member, I couldn’t be happier to see local schools, and especially my alma mater, embrace STEM education and introduce students to aviation as a career opportunity. Congratulations to the team — what a great way and great time to get involved in aviation!”

“Congratulations to the Harkness Career and Technical Center team,” said Glasair Aviation President Nigel Mott. “Everyone at Glasair is looking forward to hosting the students and helping them build a Sportsman aircraft in just two weeks.”

The 2018 Aviation Design Challenge sponsoring companies are BBA Aviation, Boeing Global Services, Bombardier Business Aircraft, Bose, Cirrus Aircraft, Click Bond, Inc., Embraer, Garmin, GE Aviation, Glasair Aviation, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Hartzell Propeller, Jet Aviation, Lycoming Engines, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Redbird Flight Simulations, Rockwell Collins and Textron Aviation. Sponsors provide round-trip airfare, hotels and meals for the first-place team as well as in-kind donations.

Learn more about the organizations involved in organizing the competition and plane build at,, and