Kids Use X-Plane To Learn Science

A new program offered by Build A Plane and Fly To Learn aims to help kids learn about science, technology, engineering, and math by building and flying virtual aircraft using X-Plane flight simulator software. “Not every school can or wants to build a real airplane,” said Lyn Freeman, founder of Build A Plane, “but now everybody can build an airplane virtually, thanks to our new partnership with Fly To Learn.” Fly To Learn has developed a curriculum that uses X-Plane to teach kids the basics of aviation and help them design and fly their own simulated aircraft. The groups plan to develop a nationwide competition with a “virtual fly-off.”


The X-Plane software and curriculum materials for up to 20 students are available to schools for about $400 per year. The program is designed to complement national STEM standards that are now in development. “X-Plane is a great learning experience because the software is sensitive to things like center of gravity, induced drag, angle of incidence and more,” said Thomas Dubick, of Fly To Learn. “Students experience strong academic rigor by designing, flying, and analyzing the results of their modifications to virtual aircraft.” The program is for middle schoolers, but versions for elementary and high school are also in the works.


The Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) is an annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams will be asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation’s leading industries. Students will utilize professional engineering software to develop their solutions and will also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace.

Registration for the 2011-2012 Real World Design Challenge is Now Open! Sign Up Today!

Click here to Get Started!


In September of 2004, the FAA approved a new category of aircraft called Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). This
category is a new classification of simple-to-operate aircraft with less demanding pilot and aircraft certification
requirements. The LSA movement is opening the world of flight to more people through a lower cost of ownership
and operation.
In addition, with the political, environmental, and economic consequences of fossil fuel consumption, the
transportation industry at large is compelled to “go green” in order to reduce dependency on these increasingly
costly energy resources.
The Challenge:
The challenge is to design an efficient, low-carbon-emission and environmentally friendly personal light sport
aircraft. The aircraft must accommodate two team members and fly 200 miles in less than two hours at a cruise
altitude of 1000 feet above ground level (AGL) minimum.

For the State Challenge, teams will perform aerodynamic, propulsion, sizing, and weight estimation analyses to
optimize wing geometry and minimize specific fuel consumption (SFC). Teams are to write a 2000 word essay on
what they would see and do given the opportunity to fly their design across the country.
The Final Design Must:
1. Follow FAA design criteria for Light Sport Aircraft:
2. Document design details including:
a. Aerodynamics Analysis (
, , versus angle of attack, AOA)
b. Power Loading
c. Wing Loading
d. Airplane Sizing
e. Engine Sizing and Selection
f. Wing Geometry
g. Airfoil Selection
h. Tail Geometry
i. Fuselage Geometry
j. Weight Estimation
k. Material Selection for Wing
Objective Function:
Minimize the objective function ( ), which is the aircraft cruise efficiency, for the flight mission to fly two team
members 200 miles in less than two hours by varying specified design variables without violating constraints:



is the aircraft coefficient of lift, is the aircraft coefficient of drag, is the aircraft cruise velocity, is the
density of air, is the wing planform reference area, is the aircraft weight, and is the wing span. is the
Oswald’s efficiency factor which can be estimated empirically using (

for straight wing aircraft with normal aspect ratios, or with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. is the
wing planform aspect ratio. Weight will be estimated with Mathcad and Mechanica methods. See reference on
flight efficiency listed below for background on equations.
Design Variables:
 Wing area
 Wing aspect ratio
 Wing taper
 Wing sweep
 Wing twist
 Root and tip airfoil shapes
 Wing placement
 Power plant selection
 Fuselage selection
 Wing material selection
 A maximum takeoff weight of not more than 1,320 pounds.
 A maximum airspeed in level flight with of not more than 120 knots under standard sea level atmospheric
 A maximum stalling speed (or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices) of
not more than 45 knots at the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.
 A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.
 A single reciprocating engine or electric motor.
 A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller.
 A non-pressurized cabin.
 Fixed landing gear.
 Not to exceed material allowables for ultimate load condition (6g’s) at maximum cruise speed at sea level.
 A minimum skin gage of 0.032 inches.
 U.S. Standard Atmosphere and Standard Day conditions with no winds aloft.
 Other active design elements (i.e. propeller sizing) will be managed by supporting worksheets and
Mathcad methods.
 UIUC Airfoil Coordinates Database:
 CAFÉ Foundation Green Flight Challenge and Resource Library:
 Landmark paper in flight efficiency:

Click to access AIAA.1980.1847.B.H.Carson.pdf

 NASA – Green Aviation: The RWDC Support Site with FAQs, tutorials, Mathcad modules, material allowables, library of available
propulsion systems and fuselages, and other supporting materials:
 Mentors from the aviation industry.
 Creo Elements/Pro Student Edition, Creo Elements/Pro Mechanica, Mathcad Prime 1.0 Student Edition,
and the Windchill collaboration site provided by PTC.
 FloEFD.Pro aerodynamic analysis software provided by Mentor Graphics.
 Sizing and performance worksheets in Mathcad and Excel provided by NASA and PTC.
 Technical scoring will be based on deliverables to be incorporated in the Design Notebook.
 Design Notebooks should follow the paragraph order of the Scoring Rubric.
 Judges will be looking for ability to express comprehension, and linkage between the design solutions
with what students have learned with specific merit given for design viability, innovation, and design
considerations that minimize carbon, noise, and infrastructure footprints

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