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April 27, 2010

Beth Dickey
Headquarters, Washington

Kathy Barnstorff
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.


RELEASE 10-100
Students Apply Science and Imagination In NASA Tilt-Rotor Design Contest

WASHINGTON - Some helicopters of the future will look very different from today's, at least as imagined by high school students for a NASA aeronautics competition.

NASA challenged students to write a paper about a civilian aircraft that could hover, rescue up to 50 survivors of a disaster, land on ground or water, travel at least 920 miles and cruise at speeds up to 345 mph. If that wasn't enough of a challenge, the amphibious tilt- rotor vehicle had to be able to fight fires by siphoning water into an internal tank, and dump it while airborne.

The winners were announced Tuesday. For a complete list and links to their rotorcraft designs, visit:


The competition was sponsored by the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project in the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington. More than 100 teens entered the contest in teams or as individuals. They represented the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, Singapore and Turkey.

Susan Gorton, principal investigator for the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project, led the review panel. She said reading the high school papers showed her how students perceive the future of aviation and NASA's leadership role.

"They think anything can be done, and that's refreshing," she said.

The most striking design looks like a flying wing with rotor assemblies on top of the nose and between two tail fins. This top-scoring team entry came from two high school seniors at Norfolk Technical Center in Norfolk, Va. Seniors Edric San Miguel and Vito Morlino offered a design called the "Versatile Emergency Landing Aircraft." This is the third year in a row that San Miguel has placed in a NASA aeronautics student contest and the second time he has won first prize.

The second and third place U.S. teams were from Linwood Holton Governor's School in Abingdon, Va. The second place individual award went to a junior at Bishop Hendricken High School in North Kingstown, R.I. Sharing third place for individual entries were a sophomore from Young Academy in Sidney, Neb., and a sophomore from Virginia's Linwood Holton Governor's School.

A trio of juniors from Chung International Secondary School in Hong Kong took top international honors. Two groups of students from Tudor Vianu National High School of Computer Science in Bucharest, Romania, earned the second and third place awards for international teams. A senior from Anderson Junior College in Singapore, earned the top score for individuals in the international category with a design titled "Salvager-7 Pelican." And a freshman from Hilton Head Island High School in Hilton Head, S.C., submitted the top scoring U.S. individual entry titled "An Angel in the Sky."

NASA hopes to interest students in pursuing careers in aeronautics and engineering by sponsoring design contests. U.S. winners receive cash awards from Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Va., through a NASA education grant and cooperative agreement. International winners receive a trophy and certificate of achievement. All student participants receive a certificate of participation and a letter from NASA commending them for their work and encouraging them to continue their study of math, science and engineering.

For more about NASA and other agency programs, visit:



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