NASA has released the names of the winners of a contest sponsored by the aeronautics government agency with the aim of designing the ultimate "all-electric general aviation vehicle" — aka an electric plane of the future. However, these designers aren't just any old group of researchers — they're actually undergraduate students who are not even old enough to rent a car.
Designs for the contest were sent in from over 20 different universities and colleges. Participating schools included UC-Davis and Virginia Tech. The winning team came from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Each plane design had to be for a four-seater, have a lasting flight time of at least 575 minutes and have the ability to carry over 400 extra pounds of cargo, among other criteria.
Electric airplanes aren't exactly a new thing — the first one able to carry a human was made and flown in 1979 — but considering that the carbon emissions from aviative vehicles contribute two to four times more than land-based carbon emissions definitely creates room for concern.
Blueprinting an electrical aircraft differs greatly from creating a run-of-the-mill jet engine model when it comes to how it is powered, i.e., the weight and utility of the battery fuel source and its staying power.
Despite the fact that there could only be one designated first-place winner, the contest judges were clearly impressed with the submissions they received. In a press statement released by NASA, associate administrator for aeronautics Jaiwon Shin lauded the entrants: "The research and critical thinking that went into each of these designs was very impressive. It's clear there is a new generation of aeronautical innovators nearly ready to make their mark on the future of aviation."
You can read about the other participating teams and brush up on their designs here.