Front Page Summary: 

STEM Initiative gets REAL for Pennsylvania TSA Chapter

Written by Robert N. Rudolph, Technology Education Lead Teacher, Cumberland Valley High School
Edited by Lynda Haitz, Communications Manager, National TSA

Four Cumberland Valley High School (PA) TSA students took on the challenge of trying to design an aircraft that would be more efficient than aircrafts in current operation. The challenge was part of the national Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) initiative that, according to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, “is designed to leverage United States in the global market by integrating education into real world problems.” Pennsylvania is one of the first 10 states to partner with the United States Department of Energy on the Real World Design Challenge.

“The Real World Design Challenge gives our students a unique opportunity to solve real problems, take on real roles in science and engineering and make real contributions to society,” Governor Rendell said. “It also complements Pennsylvania’s efforts to promote the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative that is helping to ensure that Pennsylvania’s students have the necessary skills to compete and succeed in the global economy.”

The Pennsylvania State Real World Design Challenge
The students used 3D modeling software called ProEngineer for their designs and flow analysis software called FloEFD, from Flowmerics, Inc, to determine the viability of their designs. There were webinars scheduled for the students as well as the teacher facilitators to attend via the internet. Servers were set up for the competition by Hewlett-Packard to host the software and facilitate collaboration between participants.

The Cumberland Valley HS Eagle One team was comprised of four students, Jeff Pope, Kyle Gochenaur, Vlad Grinevich and Cody Ambrose. TSA chapter advisor, Mr. Michael Flowers, took on the role of the coach of the Eagle One team. As Flowers explained, “Any time you can take the theory of mathematics, science, and technology and use it to solve a realistic problem, there is a lot of value in the process and it is worth the extra work to help the students.” The students were motivated for the challenge even though they knew there would be a lot of work and there was no credit given in class or extra credit towards their class grade. Initially, the students were given some guidelines and limitations, as well as a base ProEngineer 3D model of an aircraft and its wing from airplane manufacturer Cessna. This year's challenge presented high school teams with detailed specifications and performance capabilities of an existing twin-engine jet aircraft, and then asked students to redesign the plane to improve its fuel efficiency without drastically reducing the load capacity, flying time or any other characteristics of the original aircraft. The teams from each of the ten states that designed an airplane using the least amount of fuel by redesigning the wing of the airplane, uploading documentation to support the design, and as well as upload a presentation, would be the winner of that state and travel to Washington, DC for the national competition. Technological challenges including internet school security controls that denied access to some of the websites needed to work on the task and lack of ability to “attend” webinars during school hours. The students and Mr. Flowers did much work outside of class, both on school computers and their personal computers. Since the CAD lab was used during the school day, much of the final work was completed at school on two consecutive Saturdays and many hours after school. As a certified trainer, Mr. Flowers helped the students learn and understand the ProEngineer software.

The original challenge of starting from a 3D model of a Cessna aircraft that was on the Windchill server and redesigning it to make it more fuel efficient was tough as the students had to learn the basics of the Windhill software, flight physics, and flight mathematics and then apply that knowledge to the wing design. Cumberland Valley learned they had taken first place in Pennsylvania on February 13, 2009. They also received results on the scoring and hints and tips on what to do better next time for the national competition. The students had one month improve their design for the national challenge. The team was required to submit an engineering journal of all of the work that they completed showing the various tests and modifications that they made over the 3 month period. They were also required to submit a report showing research that backed up the test designs that they tried as well as the final solution. The school was rewarded with a 300 seat license for ProEngineer Wildfire 4.0 parametric modeling software for not only school use but also for the CAD students to be able to take and use at home.

The Cumberland Valley Eagle One team organized their efforts based on what they believed were critical elements in the design challenge. Each member had an engineer’s notebook in which they kept notes of all work and data that was completed. Gochenaur became the project manager and primary tester in the FloEFD software. Pope became the chief researcher and was in charge of writing the final report. Ambrose gathered the data from the FloEFD testing and organized all of the math equations that would be contained in the report and presentation. Grinevich was in charge of the final presentation that was organized in a Power Point presentation. The team worked closely, as communication was a key element in the team success. In order to share information, the team used the Windchill server that was set up by Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) for all of the teams to use. As the coach for the team Mr. Flowers was the point of contact between the Pennsylvania Department of Education, PTC, and the organizers of the contest. He passed on information the students needed as well as helped them learn and understand the power of ProEngineer. Ultimately, the students needed to post all of the documentation and the solution to the problem on Windchill so Mr. Flowers could up load it to be judged.

The National Real World Design Challenge
The national challenge (National Real World Design Challenge) held in Washington DC on March 20-22, 2009, was to design an airplane wing that could be efficient at high speeds. In addition, Eagle One to uploading their solution to the problem, the team had to present the solution to the judges who were aeronautical engineers. At the national challenge, the top 3 finalist teams had to present the results to another set of judges.

Upon arriving in Washington all of the teams competing in the NRWDC were treated to meeting dignitaries, specialists in aeronautics, a tour of the Nation’s monuments at night, and a visit to the National Air and Space Museum. Much of the time between activities was spent polishing the presentation of the final solution. For the competition the ten teams were separated into 3 groups and each group made presentations to a panel of judges. The Eagle One became a semifinalist as one of the top three teams in United States. They competed against the other two teams with yet another set of judges and present the team’s solution in the IMAX Theater in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Cumberland Valley’s Eagle One team finished as the third place team in the United States. Hawaii finished first and Massachusetts finished in second place.

While the RWDC was a lot of work, the consensus among Mr. Flowers and the students was that it was worth the effort. Pope explained that he saw value in this project because it “prepares me to learn CAD and lot of the principles in the RWDC can be applied to a lot of future jobs.” Gochenaur continued that “the RWDC will have a major impact on my future” by “giving me experience with the tools I will have to use in the workforce.” Grinevich added that he “gained real experience in aeronautics, CAD, science, physics and math” that were applied instead of just learned by themselves in the classroom. Finally, Ambrose summed up that “The RWDC gave me more knowledge in the programs that you use in engineering. I think that is going to help me a lot.”

Not only was this learning experience for the students, but also for the judges and other adults about the quality of technical education in the United States. “The quality of the projects is an indication to me that these students could go to work today at a major engineering firm and make immediate contributions,” said John Stuart, one of the judges. “I was surprised that high school students were capable of working at this level of engineering expertise, but it does give me confidence that our schools can produce U.S. students who will solve some of our major energy and environmental challenges over the coming decades.”

Sponsors of this contest are Parametric Technology Corporation, Flomerics, Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration, the US Department of Energy, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, and others that have also joined the DOE/PTC led team to offer technical advice and mentoring. The site for the Real World Design Challenge is