My takeaways from Design/Build/Fly

In a tumultuous world, AIAA’s annual student aircraft competition is always a good reminder that many in the coming generation of professionals know how to pull together to take on big challenges, no matter what will be in the news today.

Last month, at an airfield in Wichita, each of the 93 student teams from the United States and 12 other countries emulated urban air mobility by carrying wooden dolls in their student-built, remotely controlled aircraft.

It was a small task with big implications. Accomplishing it with limited resources could not have been done without operating from an agreed-upon set of facts related to aeronautics, physics and competitive strategies. It could not have been done without setting aside — or better  yet reveling in — any political, religious, cultural, gender and ethnic differences among team members. Likewise, grace was probably extended when opinions differed within the team, or when mistakes were made. By respecting the rules and one another, the students helped to ensure that DBF will live on.

As for the dynamics among the teams, there was “amazing energy — competitive, but also camaraderie,” says our staff reporter, Paul Brinkmann, who covered this year’s competition.

These competitors exhibited soft skills that will move aerospace technology forward, no doubt, but those skills will also produce wise business leaders and democratically minded citizens. Worth noting is that these students are backed by mentors at their universities, AIAA and the corporations that make this event possible. We hear a lot about clashes among generations. In DBF, they are working smoothly together.

Read Paul Brinkmann’s account of this year’s competition here.

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About Ben Iannotta

Ben keeps the magazine and its news coverage on the cutting edge of journalism. He began working for the magazine in the 1990s as a freelance contributor and became editor-in-chief in 2013. He was editor of C4ISR Journal and has written for Air & Space Smithsonian, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, Reuters and Space News.

My takeaways from Design/Build/Fly