Plane project sends high school students to new heights


by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News Aviation Specialist

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 27 at 6:54 PM

ARLINGTON, Wash. - After beating 79 other high schools from 33 states and Washington, D.C, four students from Las Vegas are living their prize: getting to build a small single engine plane at Arlington’s Glasair Aviation.

But what makes this story compelling is that the winning entry is a sign of a turnaround for Sunrise Mountain High School, where only about a third of the students even graduate.

The team’s winning entry: a plane designed on a school computer with longer wings carrying a bigger payload using software powered by X-Plane. The X-Plane software was used by all entries allowing the students to design and fly virtual aircraft.  In this case, it was a winning entry from kids who never thought of a career as aerospace engineers - before now.

One of the students had never been on a plane before flying to Seattle.

“They don’t have internet, they don’t have a computer at home,” said Reza Karamooz, president of the Nevada Business Aviation Association. Karamooz established an aviation club at the school and volunteers his time along with John Kanuch, an F-16 pilot with the U.S. Air Force.

Working to design a virtual airplane is one thing; actually spending two weeks all expenses paid at Glasair Aviation is life changing.

The contest is only a few years old, sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) along with Build A Plane, a non-profit organization that helps students learn how to build aircraft.

The mission; to encourage more high school students to think more about education and careers in STEM related fields. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Students can become tomorrow’s engineers and scientists.

“They’re going to be running aerospace businesses, and they’ll be able to tell you what they were doing this week,” said Capt. Stephen Taylor, who chairs GAMA’s board of directors.  “They’re going to learn engineering principles.”

“Before I came here, I never thought it would be an opportunity for me. Now that I’m here, it’s definitely something I’m not going to let pass by. I’m going to check it out,”  said student Kenny Ellis.