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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 then 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

  • Letter of Intent due: 14 March
  • Final Proposal due: 16 May
  • Winner Announced: August

General Rules and Information

  1. All undergraduate AIAA branches or at-large Student Members are eligible and encouraged to participate. Team competitions will be groups of not more than ten AIAA branch or at-large Student Members per entry. Individual competitions will consist of only 1 AIAA Student Member per entry.
  2. The report in Adobe PDF format must be submitted to AIAA online. Total size of the file cannot exceed 20MB. 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. The top three design teams will be awarded certificates. Monetary awards pending funding availability. Certificates will be presented to the winning design teams for display at their universities, and a certificate also will be presented to each team member and the faculty/project advisor. 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 provided pending funding availability.
  5. More than one design may be submitted from students at any one school. Projects should be no more than 100 (total) double-spaced pages and typeset should be no smaller than 10pt Times (including graphs, drawings, photographs, and appendices). Up to five of the 100 pages may be foldouts (11”x17” max).
  6. If a design group withdraws its project from the competition, the team chairman must notify AIAA Headquarters immediately!

Copyright Information

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

Any submission that does not contain a copyright notice shall become the property of AIAA. A team desiring to maintain copyright ownership may so indicate on the signature page but nevertheless, by submitting a proposal, grants an irrevocable license to AIAA to copy, display, publish, and distribute the work and to use it for all of AIAA’s current and future print and electronic uses (e.g. “Copyright © 20__ by _____. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.).

Any submission purporting to limit or deny AIAA licensure (or copyright) will not be eligible for prizes.

Proposal Requirements

The technical proposal is the most important criterion in the award of a contract. It should be specific and complete. While it is realized that all of the technical factors cannot be included in advance, the following should be included and keyed accordingly:


  1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements.
  2. Describe the proposed technical approaches to comply with each of the requirements specified in the RFP, including phasing of tasks. Legibility, clarity, and completeness of the technical approach are primary factors in evaluation of the proposals.
  3. Particular emphasis should be directed at identification of critical, technical problem areas. Descriptions, sketches, drawings, systems analysis, method of attack, and discussions of new techniques should be presented in sufficient detail to permit engineering evaluation of the proposal. Exceptions to proposed technical requirements should be identified and explained.
  4. Include tradeoff studies performed to arrive at the final design.
  5. Provide a description of automated design tools used to develop the design.

Basis for Judging

  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 a 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.


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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