NEWBURYPORT — The 2013 Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Team, Model A, from Newburyport High School received a second place award at a ceremony held April 2 in the Jet Aviation Hanger at Hanscom Field.
The Model A team included: Josh Barbieri (11th grade), Lauren Bouchard (11th grade), Chris Clarke (12th grade), Theo Dubus (10th grade), Lauren Healey (10th grade), Mark Landergan (10th grade) and Alex Peterson (11th grade). Sarah Leadbeater, technology instructor at NHS, was the faculty advisor. Words of praise for the intensive efforts and innovation of the top three teams were offered by seven speakers including the keynote speaker Lieutenant Governor Timothy A. Murray, Federal Aviation Administration-New England Regional Administrator Amy Lind Corbett, Major General L. Scott Rice, Adjunct General of the Massachusetts National Guard and Parametric Technology Corporation Manager of K-12 programs globally, Dr. Jordan Cox. The gathering afforded a well-appreciated opportunity for the top three teams to talk with each other, compare notes, and tour a private jet.
This year the Real World Design Challenge involved “using real world state of the art professional engineering software to design Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) that included one or more fixed-wing Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAVs) along with developing a business plan in support of their system based on the mission scenario of locating a missing, injured and immobilized child in the large area of the Philmont Ranch, NM,” according to Steven Rawding, Aviation Planner and RWDC State Coordinator at MassDOT Aeronautics.
Fifteen teams from across the Commonwealth competed and were judged by Dr. Jeffrey A. Hoffman, MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
The NHS RWDC team said they found this year’s challenge very interesting as it was more involved than prior challenges. For example, instead of simply redesigning a single part of the plane to improve fuel efficiency, they were asked to create an entire process for the current real world need of search and rescue missions. They were also surprised by the range of things they ended up learning about beyond aviation and search patterns, for example they now have a detailed understanding of the capabilities of different sorts of cameras and know a lot about the kind of focal length and resolution needed to detect a child in a flyover.
Faculty advisor Sarah Leadbeater noted how proud she was of the students who tackled a very difficult challenge, worked really hard and put in a lot of long hours. “More importantly”, Sarah stated, “this is their success, I could guide them and track down support for technical issues but by the time we were a month or two into this project their knowledge so surpassed mine they were the experts and they were teaching me.”
The goal of the Real World Design Challenge is to increase and enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at the high school level. It is a public-private partnership that includes industry, government, academia and non-profits.