High-Speed Research

Teenagers from eight states and 11 countries imagined what a future of supersonic passenger travel might look like, in a competition sponsored by NASA.

| May 22, 2009

  • The future of air travel, as seen by teenagers in a NASA competition.
    Teens from around the world entered a NASA competition to imagine the future of supersonic passenger travel.
    iStockphoto.com/James Thew

  • The future of air travel, as seen by teenagers in a NASA competition.

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.

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