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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

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Design Competitions

The AIAA Foundation sponsors design competitions every year. These competitions offer a great opportunity for students to participate in a simulated real-world problem, allowing students to gain experience and receive useful and constructive feedback from technical experts who sit on AIAA Technical Committees.

Several of the competitions allow students to perform theoretical work and gain real-world insight into the design process. Whether students are designing an aircraft, engine, or space vehicle, they will go through all of the primary design steps involved in determining a solution to a Request for Proposal (RFP). This includes determining a hypothetical solution, testing the hypothesis, evaluating its effectiveness, possibly doing some cost analysis, and finally preparing a report that will be submitted in response to the RFP. These responses are reviewed by experts in the field who will provide constructive responses to the students.

This year’s competitions are listed below. Show the world you've got the right stuff in design, and you may win cash prizes while you're at it!



Important Dates

  1. Letter of Intent due: 14 March
  2. Final Proposal due: 16 May
  3. Winner Announced: 31 August

Eligibility Requirements

  1. All student members are eligible and encouraged to participate. Team competitions will be groups of not more than ten student members per entry. Individual competitions will consist of only one student member per entry.
  2. Designs submitted must be the work of the students, but guidance may come from the Faculty/Project Advisor and should be accurately acknowledged.
  3. Design projects that are used as part of an organized classroom requirement are eligible and encouraged for competition.
  4. More than one design may be submitted from students at any one school.

Basis for Judging

The AIAA Technical Committee that developed the RFP will serve as the judges of the final reports. They will evaluate the reports using the categories and scoring listed below. The judges reserve the right to not award all three places. Judges’ decisions are final.


  1. Technical Content (35 points)
    This concerns the correctness of theory, validity of reasoning used, apparent understanding and grasp of the subject, etc. Are all major factors considered and reasonably accurate evaluation of these factors presented?

  2. Organization and Presentation (20 points)
    The description of the design as an instrument of communication is a strong factor in judging. Organization of written design, clarity, and inclusion of pertinent information are major factors.

  3. Originality (20 points)
    The design proposal should avoid standard textbook information, and should show independence of thinking or a fresh approach to the project. Does the method and treatment of the problem show imagination? Does the approach show an adaptation or creation of automated design tools?

  4. Practical Application and Feasibility (25 points)
    The proposal should present conclusions or recommendations that are feasible and practical, and not merely lead the evaluators into further difficult or insolvable problems.


All submissions to the competition shall be the original work of the team members.

Authors retain copyright ownership of all written works submitted to the competition. By virtue of participating in the competition, team members and report authors grant AIAA non-exclusive license to reproduce submissions, in whole or in part, for all of AIAA’s current and future print and electronic uses. Appropriate acknowledgment will accompany any reuse of materials.


The prize money provided for the competitions is funded through the AIAA Foundation. The monetary awards may differ for each competition, with a maximum award of $1,000. The award amounts are listed below and can also be found in the general rules portion of the RFP.

The top three design teams will be awarded certificates. One representative from the first place team may be expected to make a presentation of their design at an AIAA forum. A travel stipend may be available for some competitions.


  • Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design
    • 1st Place= $1,000; 2nd Place=$500; 3rd Place= $300

  • Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design
  • Graduate Team Aircraft Design
  • Undergraduate Team Engine Design
  • Undergraduate Team Space Design
  • Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design
    • 1st Place= $500; 2nd Place=$250; 3rd Place= $125

For general design competition questions please contact the AIAA Student Programs Coordinator, Rachel Dowdy, at

Design Competitions



Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design Competition
RFP: Military Flying Straddle Carrier
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Willem Anemaat at


Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition
RFP: Aerobatic Light Sport Aircraft Family (LSA)
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Matt Orr,


Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition
RFP: Large Air Tanker for Wildfire Attack
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact (TBD).


Undergraduate Team Engine Design Competition
RFP: Candidate Engines for a Next-Generation Trainer
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Dr. Jimmy Tai at


Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition
RFP: Mars Sample Return System
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Miroslav Sir at


Undergraduate Team Space Design Competition
RFP: Low-Cost Asteroid Precursor Mission
For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Mark Andraschko at, or William Tomek at


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