Get to Know the Real World Design Challenge

In our last blog post, we put the spotlight on ACE Academy – a fun, hands-on camp that’s sponsored in part by one of Marick Group’s clients, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The STEM-based experience encourages middle and high school students to take part in aviation and aerospace activities that expose them to career opportunities within the FAA.

Another hugely popular event in the STEM world that’s targeted to students in grades 9-12 is the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC). The RWDC is an annual competition run by public and private partnerships, with the goal of setting a solid foundation for our future STEM workforce. It gives high school students the chance to work on real-world engineering challenges using professional science and engineering resources in a virtual environment – applying classroom lessons to real-life challenges found in the working world.

Real World At-A-Glance

Some more details about RWDC:

  • The competition began in 2008 through a partnership between industry, government, academia and non-profit. The goal was to create a program, targeted to high schools, which brought professional engineering resources into classrooms.
  • The strong involvement of public-private partnerships is the reason that RWDC continues to be such a big success. To date, partners have donated over $750 million to the program. Wow!
  • In the first year of competition, students from 10 states participated in RWDC. Since then, 39 new states and protectorates have been added each year along with U.S. territories and other countries.
  • The competition runs for about seven months, beginning in fall with the start of the school year, and ending with the national championship in spring.
  • Teams of 3-7 high schoolers are led by a coach. Each team participating in the competition gets $1 million in professional engineering software in addition to training, curriculum materials and access to competition mentors.
  • Using their engineering software and other available resources, the students are tasked with solving an engineering challenge currently facing a particular industry. To date, challenges have focused on the aerospace industry.
  • The teams first compete against one another on a state level. Each team develops a presentation that showcases and justifies the solution they came up with for their challenge. The winner from each state heads to Washington, D.C. to participate in the national finals. So what do the national winners get for a prize? An impressive $50,000 scholarship from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for each student.

The 2016 Challenge

This year marked the 8th annual RWDC. The national championship was held on April 23rd. Teams from all over the U.S. as well as China competed. The challenge this year: to design a UAS (unmanned aerial system) that would scan farm fields for crop moisture content. The winning team was The Xavier Engineers, hailing from Xavier High School in Middletown, CT. Xavier also won in 2011 and 2012. RWDC sources say that it only took Xavier five months to complete the challenge – and it took professionals from Princeton, Rutgers and Icarus Aerospace Company a whopping three years to solve the same problem! Great job Xavier. And let’s not forget about the other winning teams – second-place honors went to Team Big Blue from Phillips Academy in Andover, MA and third-place kudos went to Red Mountain Engineering Team from Red Mountain, AZ.

Get Involved

RWDC is always looking for new partners, teachers, mentors and student teams to join in the action. With the 2016 event just wrapped up, applications are now being accepted for the 2016/2017 competition. You can visit the RWDC website for all the details.