Designing a Faster Future
NASA recently recognized the winners of a high school student contest for their ideas about the future of supersonic air transportation. Some of these students may become the engineers who could one day turn those ideas into reality.

The contest, sponsored by the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, included U.S. and international divisions as well as individual and team categories. More than 120 teenagers, representing 12 countries, submitted 60 entries. The competition supports NASA's goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

A rendering of a sleek supersonic airplane in flight

The winning design in the U.S. individual category would reduce noise from sonic booms. Image Credit: NASA

Students were challenged to develop ideas for making commercial supersonic air transportation available by 2020. Contest participants did so by examining obstacles to supersonic transportation and proposing solutions. In an additional challenge, some students submitted designs for a small supersonic airliner.

Engineers from four NASA centers reviewed the entries. Papers were scored on four criteria: informed content, creativity and innovation, organization, and writing. The top U.S. individual winner won a $1,000 cash prize, and members of the top U.S. team split $1,500. International students are not eligible for cash prizes but received an engraved trophy. All participants received a NASA certificate and free student versions of two engineering software programs.

Edric San-Miguel, a junior from Norfolk Technical Center in Norfolk, Va., was the winner in the U.S. individual category. San-Miguel's design for the additional challenge was called the Silent Airliner. A quiet spike and inverted V-shaped tail would mitigate sound waves and reduce sonic booms. "The Silent Airliner will exhibit outstanding aircraft virtues such as durability, longevity and profitability," San-Miguel wrote. "This design will be the solution for the future of supersonic travel. It will overcome the obstacles and challenges that prevent us from flying at supersonic speed."

Two students formed the winning U.S. team from Arcadia High School in Arcadia, Calif. Jason Jong, a junior, and Ziang Xie, a senior, named their design the Lazarus T1. The design drew on the retired Concorde airliner but included improvements based on military and NASA research. "Unlike conventional aircraft, with poorly integrated parts, the Lazarus T1 [employs] the ultra-sleek, highly-efficient shape of the Blended Wing Body Design, first proposed by Boeing and NASA," the students wrote. "However, to make this design suitable for supersonic flight, [several features were added] to reduce the supersonic boom and make the blended body a better experience for the passengers (such as in improving availability of windows)."

A drawing of an airplane with parts labeled

Opening a new era of supersonic commercial flight is the goal of the winning design in the international individual category. Image Credit: NASA

Sidharth Krishnan, a senior at Anglo-Chinese Junior College in Singapore, won the international individual category. Krishnan's design concept was titled "The Flight of the V-3." According to Krishnan, "Keeping the primary concerns of safety, environment ... and flight efficiency in mind, the V-3 is designed ... to be a viable mode of transport by the year 2020. Its ability to provide supersonic air travel ... without damaging the environment will make it a good example of sustainable development. If the official retirement of the Concorde was a step backward in aviation history, then the arrival of the V-3 will be a bigger step forward; a step that man can look back upon as the beginning of a new era in aviation history."

Three ninth-grade students -- Muraru Costin Grigore, Felix Liviu Milorad and Muraru Sebastian -- from the National High School of Computer Science in Tudor Viana, Bucharest, Romania, were the winning international team. The Romanian team named its design S.S. Voyager. "Our plane [binds] together several ideas that make it optimal for supersonic and subsonic flights. It is very adaptable; it can fly at low speeds as well as at supersonic speeds due to its telescopic wings. ... We hope that our view of future aviation, the Super Sonic Voyager X, is imaginative and innovative enough to become the world's view of future aviation."

Related Resources
Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Competition   →
Aeronautics Competition Winners   →
NASA Education

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services