Washington, D.C. – Airplanes shaped like huge darts and rocket ships – that's what the future of supersonic passenger travel may look like, according to a number of high school students.
Teenagers from eight states and 11 foreign countries imagined that future as part of a competition sponsored by NASA. The students were asked to write a well-documented research paper describing what needs to be accomplished to make supersonic flight available to commercial passengers by 2020.
Edric San-Miguel, a junior from Norfolk Technical Center in Norfolk, Va., earned the top score among all the entries. Sidharth Krishnan, a senior from Anglo-Chinese Junior College in Singapore, won top honors in the non-U.S. category.
More than 120 teenagers submitted 60 entries in four categories: U.S. individual, U.S. team, non-U.S. individual and non-U.S. team. A junior and senior from Arcadia High School in Arcadia, Calif., led the American teams. Three ninth-graders from the National High School of Computer Science in Tudor Vianu, Bucharest, Romania won the top prize for non-U.S. teams.
"All the conceptual designs were imaginative and innovative," said Bob Mack, a veteran supersonics researcher at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., who reviewed all the top papers. "The design in the winning paper showed the student had a definite respect and appreciation for technical realities while still being imaginative."
Students could choose from two options in the competition. They could write a research paper to discuss the challenges and solutions of supersonic flight or propose a design for a small supersonic airliner that could enter commercial service in 2020.
A group of NASA engineers reviewed all the entries. The judges based their scores on how well students focused their papers and how well they addressed four basic criteria: informed content, creativity and imagination, organization, and writing.
NASA will award the top scoring papers from the U.S. a cash prize of $1,000 for the individual award winner and $1,500 for the team. Non-U.S. students will receive an engraved trophy, but are not eligible for cash prizes. All participants will receive a NASA certificate. The competition was sponsored by the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.
For a complete list of winners and details of their designs, visit the page on NASA.gov. For more information about NASA's aeronautics research, visit the website. For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit the main website for NASA.