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GAMA Announces 2020 Aviation Design Challenge Winners

GAMA NEWS 20-28 For Immediate Release: Jul 21, 2020

Jul 21, 2020
Contact: Andre Castro


GAMA Announces 2020 Aviation Design Challenge Winners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) announced that the team from Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, Georgia, is the winner of the 2020 GAMA Aviation Design Challenge. The team from Harkness Career and Technical Center in Cheektowaga, New York, is the second-place winner.

“As we have been each of the eight years of our Aviation Design Challenge, we are extremely proud of our winners as well as all the schools who submitted entries. The COVID-19 pandemic created unforeseen and difficult challenges for the students and teachers, and we were impressed with innovative approach teams took to collaborate virtually and finish the competition,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA President and CEO. “We look forward to rewarding our winners with unique aviation experiences in the coming weeks that will continue to promote the importance of Aerospace STEM education as well as expose these young people to the vast opportunities that await them in aviation.”

Over 80 high schools entered the 2020 GAMA Aviation Design Challenge, spanning 35 states. During the first part of the challenge, teams use complementary “Fly to Learn” curriculum to learn the principles of flight and airplane design, which is developed in alignment with national STEM standards. During the second portion of the competition, teams apply their knowledge to modify an airplane design and complete a mission in a virtual fly-off using X-Plane software, which is a comprehensive and powerful flight simulator for personal computers. Judges score the teams based on performance parameters, a checklist of steps involved in the demonstration flight and a video submission in which the team summarized what they learned.

Members of the first-place team from Riverwood International Charter School include Coleman Alvarez, Lucas Daniels and Jessica Keen. Their design included a substantially increased wingspan, winglets, retractable gear and two additional propeller blades. This was the school’s first time participating in the challenge. They will receive a one-of-a-kind general aviation experience including a tour of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation; demonstration flights by Cirrus Aircraft; a tour of a Signature Flight Support FBO; virtual experiences including live demonstrations and career panel discussions presented by Dassault Falcon, ForeFlight and Garmin; and much more.

The Riverwood International Charter School team was taught by John Friske. He had the following to say about his students:

“Jessica, Coleman and Lucas all strived to expand their knowledge base from the day we started, working tirelessly to learn new and challenging material.  They embraced the Design Thinking Process and Engineering Design Process that I teach and did everything that I asked of them with a smile and positive attitude.  It was so much fun watching them have a blast creating everything from a supersonic prop-driven rocket to a 300 ft. wingspan Sportsman that we couldn’t even get to stall!  I couldn’t be more proud of them!”

Members of the second-place team from Harkness Career and Technical Center include Madison Baer, Vincenzo Ciffa, Anthony Mathewson, Nate Pajak, Jacob Robinson, Andrew Schlabach, Olivia Thornton and Gavin Wieszala. The team was taught by Aviation Design Challenge veteran Thomas Leach. Their entry included redesigning the fuselage of their aircraft, increasing the propeller diameter, converting to a taildragger, increasing the span and AR, adding speed brakes and increasing flap deflection. Harkness Career and Technical Center has placed in the top of the challenge for the last three years, including winning the 2018 challenge. They will receive a two-day Redbird Flight Simulations STEM Lab Camp.

Thomas Leach, teacher of the team from Harkness Career and Technical Center, had the following to say about his students:

“The students in the Aviation Technology class at Harkness Career & Tech Center in New York State worked through some interesting and challenging times this year which were different than any other. They started the challenge in the classroom and, with school closing in early March, switched to online instruction. Some transitioned well to work from home as teams and continued to figure out how to work together to finish the challenge strong. One student, mentioned that this made him see how dedication and effort are required in online work as a team. Additionally, he mentioned how this challenging project made him better understand other areas of interest in the industry. The team that finished the challenge had their ups and downs and gained many new experiences. It was great to mentor them and ultimately see them complete the competition this year.”

The 2020 Aviation Design Challenge sponsoring companies include Bombardier Business Aircraft, Cirrus Aircraft, Dassault Falcon, Embraer, ForeFlight, Garmin, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Hartzell Propeller, Redbird Flight Simulations, Signature Flight Support, Textron Aviation and Wipaire. Sponsors provide financial support for the prizes as well as in-kind donations.

Learn more about the organizations involved in organizing the competition, visit, and




GAMA is an international trade association representing over 100 of the world's leading manufacturers of general aviation airplanes and rotorcraft, engines, avionics, components and related services. GAMA's members also operate repair stations, fixed based operations, pilot and maintenance training facilities and manage fleets of aircraft. For more information, visit GAMA's website at


Communications Director:
Andre Castro:
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Headquarters: (+1) 202-393-1500
European Office: (+32) 2 550-3900

GAMA exists to foster and advance the general welfare, safety, interests, and activities of the global business and general aviation industry. This includes promoting a better understanding of general aviation manufacturing, maintenance, repair, and overhaul and the important role these industry segments play in economic growth and opportunity, and in serving the critical transportation needs of communities, companies, and individuals worldwide.