Campus News

Wing Design Competition to Challenge Teens' Engineering Skills

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 6, 2014) — High school students will put their aerospace engineering skills to the test in the fourth annual Wing Design Competition, held by the University of Kentucky College of Engineering. 

The event will be held Saturday, May 17, at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport. Visitors and volunteers from across the country are expected to be in attendance.

The competition challenges teams of high school students to design and construct a wing for a remote-controlled airplane suitable for meeting various payload challenges. Schools within the Institute for Aerospace Education (IAE) network create teams through formal class offerings and student clubs.

There are currently 20 schools within IAE, but schools may enter two teams into the event. Thirty teams have been working on their aircraft since January, and around 250 students are expected to compete. This year’s field will contain a non-Kentucky school for the first time, Greeneville High School from Greeneville, Tenn.

The event will be coordinated by the UK College of Engineering and is sponsored by NASA Kentucky, Stantec, Somerset-Pulaski County Airport Board/Lake Cumberland Regional Airport and Kentuckiana Post SAME.

UK engineering professors supply teaching modules on aerodynamics and stability to assist teams with their wing design. UK engineering students will help run the competition. Static displays will be provided by Air Methods Corporation, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department and the Somerset Police Department.

“The hope is that the students who learn the material from the teaching modules this year will pass it on to new students next year, creating an accumulated body of knowledge that grows as it is handed down year after year,” said Jesse Hoagg, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UK.

Tim Smith, director of IAE, says he appreciates the ways in which the competition helps high school students learn engineering principles outside the classroom.

“This competition inspires students with flight, but gives them a great hands-on opportunity to apply math, science and problem solving in ways they don't get in a classroom,” he said. “For NASA and Kentucky, and the region, these students are the future — whether they decide to pursue careers specifically in aviation and aerospace engineering or whether they choose another field — they will have tried something very difficult, succeeded at some aspects and learned a lot along the way.” 

Smith also noted that the Wing Design Competition has led to more than 600 students studying aerospace. Those students fare better than average on the ACT college entrance exam, and about three-fourths of graduating seniors who have competed choose a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) discipline for their college major.

For more information, please contact Tim Smith, executive director of the Institute for Aerospace Education, at 502-320-9490; Kellie Baker, airport manager, Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, at 606-679-7908; or Jesse Hoagg, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kentucky, at 859-218-0641.

MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, 859-323-2396;