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Engineering Edge

High School Students Fly with FloEFD™

The Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) is an annual high school competition in the USA run by a public-private partnership with the goal of assisting in the increase of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce in America. Every year teams of three to seven secondary school students are asked to address a real challenge that confronts leading engineers. Often students are asked to design a plane or car looking at the forces of lift, weight, thrust and drag with the goal of either enhancing performance or fuel efficiency. It is free for High School teachers and students to participate. Indeed, each participating teacher gets access to $1M worth of commercial professional engineering simulation software to use in the competition, as well as access to professional mentors. To date 39 State governors or Lt. Governors have supported the RWDC “Governor’s Challenge” and following State level competitions, a national competition final is held each year in Washington, DC. In FY12 11 Independent States participated in the Challenge, with a total of 50 States involved.

RWDC helps to address the critical need in the United States for the development of a replacement workforce in the STEM fields, especially as a large proportion of the American aerospace and automotive engineering workforce comes closer to retirement. It is estimated that there are not enough young students with the resources and the enthusiasm to replace the baby boomer generation in these industries. Moreover, throughout America many companies across all industry sectors are increasingly demanding new hires from universities with 21st century skills in engineering simulation allied with creativity, problem solving, collaboration and “real world” knowledge that is comparable to experience. RWDC is therefore an innovative and unique response to this emerging need in America.

It was the brainchild of Dr. Ralph Coppola from Parametric Technologies Corporation (PTC) in Needham, Massachusetts. The idea came to him five years ago, seeking to bridge the gap between High School students and modern engineering simulation technologies and tools with a view to giving school children an aerospace or automotive related challenge that the world is typically facing today. The ultimate goal of the challenge, from PTC’s perspective, is to stimulate interest in engineering with 14 – 19 year olds and to illustrate that engineering is a mainstay of the American economy and an ongoing factor behind its GDP growth.

Softer goals for the RWDC were to inspire and engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and highlight the economic importance of having the world’s most skilled and innovative workforce in these fields.

In 2008, Dr. Coppola piloted his RWDC program in 10 States ending the year with the winning teams from each of the participating States competing for national honors at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Coppola’s vision has always been to create an educational initiative that infuses “real world” experiences, one-on-one communication with industry experts, professional tools and software donated by companies like PTC and Mentor Graphics which is free and accessible to all students in the United States. The Real World Design Challenge aims at being a high-quality national engineering competition that allows any school to participate, regardless of economic limitations or geographic location. As of today, almost 13,000 students in 50 States and territories have participated in the program. For the last three years the national championship winning team is sponsored by the RWDC to participate in President Obama’s White House Science Fair. In five years RWDC has grown from just 10 to over 700 High Schools. Numerous engineers, designers, mentors and judges from across industry, government and academia have been key to the success of the program by donating their expertise, sharing their knowledge with the students and evaluating the students’ work. Executives from an impressive array of 55 governmental, defense and private companies encompassing NASA, the Federal Aviation Authority, the US Department of Defense, Northrup Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Cessna-Textron, SpaceX, GKN Aerospace and Lockheed Martin participate in the local and national finals as judges. This year, Dr. Erich Buergel from Mentor Graphics was one of the Blue Ribbon judges.

Boasting a 54% growth in participation last year, the RWDC has now become one of the fastest growing STEM education programs in America and the world’s largest aviation education program, with support from the Aerospace States Association and the National Lieutenant Governors Association. Dr. Coppola chose FloEFD from Mentor Graphics because it is a fully-embedded general purpose CFD tool within the popular Mechanical CAD Pro/Engineer and Creo product lines. In addition, FloEFD’s unique push-button geometry and mesh generation pre-processing capabilities – the bane of traditional CFD tools – makes it ideal for high school children to pick up and use with minimal supervision. Its robustness, built-in convergence intelligence and parametric simulation methodologies makes it relatively fool proof for the high school students to use. Yet it has FloEFD’s history and pedigree as a well-validated 3D external aerodynamics solver making it ideal for virtual “wind tunnel” simulations. Schools are also offered PTC’s Mechanica structural analysis tool, Windchill for their PLM needs and Mathcad as their engineering calculation tool. Dr. Coppola has arguably created the most popular and dynamic engineering design contest in America if not the world. In 2013 schools will be able to compete to design an unmanned aerial vehicle that has been proposed by Northrup Grumman and other Real World Design Challenge Partners. There will also be a Surface Transportation Challenge. Students will optimize the performance of a class 11 truck. The true value of RWDC will be in the number of new young engineers it enthuses and stimulates into the profession in years to come.

Want to Know More about RWDC or to encourage your High School to participate?

For getting involved or for additional information, contact:

Dr. Ralph K. Coppola,
Real World Design Challenge Director
Phone: (1) 703-298-6630, email: rcoppola@ptc.com

or go to www.realworlddesignchallenge.org.

Registration is open on the RWDC website.

“Real World Design Challenge has changed his life. I see so much happiness and satisfaction ahead of him and it came from a seed planted by RWDC.”

A Connecticut School’s RWDC 2012 Cessna-type Plan Design (in PTC Creo)

A Connecticut School’s RWDC 2012 Cessna-type FloEFD for Creo Aerodynamic Analysis of the proposed aircraft wing

Dr. Ralph Coppola, PTC Director of the Real World Design Challenge

RWDC 2012 Blue Ribbon Judging Panel (including Mentor’s Dr. Erich Buergel, 2nd from right at the standing at the rear)

President Obama of the USA examines the work of 2010 RWDC winners from Baldwin High School, Kansas, in an event at the White House

2012 RWDC National Finals Winners, Baldwin High School, Kansas, receiving their Award in Washington DC

 
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