Students Create Award-Winning ''Green'' Airplane Designs

The winning design of a NASA student competition to create a new greener aircraft looks a little like a cross between a plane and a Swiss army knife.

More than 20 seniors from the University of Virginia contributed to the winning paper and project they called the VERDe Atrema or Virginia Environmentally Responsible Design (VERDe) Atrema. They responded to a challenge from the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

The challenge was to submit ideas and designs for aircraft or engine concepts and technologies that would assist in meeting the project's goals for more environmentally friendly aviation by the year 2020. Those goals include better fuel economy, fewer emissions, less noise and better performing airplanes.

Judges for the competition assessed submissions from 20 national and international student teams, most of whom are studying engineering. Nine seniors from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., created the second place entry known as P6CAF-IncAR Concept Airliner, which looks more like a traditional tube and wing aircraft.

Two teams tied for third place including another group from Purdue. Nine undergraduates from the Indiana university designed the "Night Panther" airliner, while a team of eight first year graduate students from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta designed a blended wing body aircraft they called ERATO.

All of the non-U.S. winners came from India. First place went to two seniors at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, for their engine concepts. Two seniors from Anna University in Chennai came in second for their blended wing body design. Third place went to four undergraduates from SRM University in Kattankulathur for their airliner concept.

NASA sponsors design contests in hopes of interesting students in aeronautics and engineering careers. Each winning U.S. college team received a cash award and an engraved trophy through a NASA education grant and cooperative agreement. Cash awards ranged from $5,000 for first place to $2,500 for third place. Non-U.S. participants received certificates of appreciation.

High school students also had the opportunity to enter a similar, but a little less academically challenging, contest. The movie "Back to the Future" may have inspired the winner of that competition.

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