Washington, D.C Kaitlyn Barnes was elated when she and her four Baldwin High School teammates finished their presentation at the national finals Saturday evening of the Real World Design Challenge in the nation’s capital.
“I felt so good after the presentation, I couldn’t stop smiling,” the junior said Monday morning.
She had good reason. The team’s presentation and responses to the questions that followed from the competition’s judges earned the Baldwin High School team its second national title in the aerospace technology competition sponsored by federal agencies, private aerospace companies and governments of participating states.
This year, teams were presented with computer-designed fuselages and asked to digitally design tail sections and wings to complete a light-aviation aircraft. Teams then had to demonstrate their designs could take off from Kitty Hawk, N.C., fly to Dayton, Ohio, and land.
Pam Davis, team coach and Baldwin school district enhanced learning teacher, said the team of freshman Quint Heinecke and juniors Abby Clem, Austin Kraus, Barnes, Mackenzie Johnson and Carrie Deitz performed flawlessly in the final round of competition at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s IMAX Theater against teams from Nevada and Pennsylvania.
“I think they surprised even themselves that they were so polished and perfect,” Davis said. “It was obvious they were head and shoulders above the other two teams.”
The three teams were selected for the final round after presenting Saturday morning with 28 other teams at the national final’s opening round at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Md., where the teams stayed during the challenge.
The Baldwin team won an all-expense paid trip to compete in the national finals in February when its 88-page written entry took first in the state challenge. A BHS team has won the state competition all four years the challenge has been contested in Kansas.
The national title was the culmination of work the team has put into the project since October. Students worked at home on laptops, meet as a group weekly and had all-day work sessions during the school’s Christmas and spring breaks.
The team was able to draw on the expertise of mentors, including two aerospace engineers from Wichita, an equal number of Kansas University graduate students and Sandy Barnes, a computer engineer and mother of team member Kaitlyn Barnes.
Deitz and Kraus were members of the 2010 team that also won a national championship, and Barnes and Johnson joined them on the school’s 2011 third-place team. The veterans and newcomers Clem and Heinecke forged a working relationship that made the championship a team effort, Davis said.
“They spread the leadership around, and they all had an important part that was their responsibility,” she said.
The long hours and the team concept paid off in the finals, team members said.
“We were really comfortable out there,” Johnson said. “We knew what we were talking about. That’s what we had to do — prove we knew what we were talking about.”
Despite the sense that the team had impressed the judges, most team members remained anxious until the results were announced.
“I was confident we did our best and that we had a good chance,” Deitz said. “But you never know what the final results are going to be.”