High School Student Awards

AIAA partners with several programs to recognize students who have excelled in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and have a passion for aerospace. AIAA wants to inspire many of these students to choose from an array of engineering program offerings at the collegiate or university level and help them become the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Congratulations to the 2021 high school award winners below::

AIAA Roger W. Kahn Scholarship Winners


  • Favianna Colon of Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Favianna Colon of Caguas, Puerto Rico

    Favianna Colon

    Notre Dame High School
    Attending in the fall: TBD

    Born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico to parents Christine Irizarry and José Colón, I am the eldest child, a trained ballet dancer, and the first member of my family to pursue university studies outside the isle’s borders—I hope to attend MIT or Georgia Tech in the fall. My decision to do so came over four years ago, in 2018, when I traveled to Washington, DC, to compete in the National Science Bowl and fell in love with the vibrant campus life.

    I am currently a senior at Notre Dame High School in my hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. I participate in a specialized STEAM program offered there that, over the years, has inspired my fondness of discovery and creation. At the school, I am an active member of numerous organizations, including the Chemistry Club, Honor Society, and Mathematics Club, of which I am president. Thanks to participation in these, I have managed to be a great prospect in competitions like the Puerto Rico Math Olympiad. Further, such institutions have assisted me in discerning my passion for Chemical and Biological Engineering.

    Outside of school, in 2019, I participated in a research initiative hosted by NASA in the Arecibo Observatory called STAR Academy. I graduated as the program’s salutatorian and, during my time there, investigated black hole types and emerging trends in their development throughout the universe. Such experience steered me to also seek a minor in Astronomy.

  • Nchenui Moundae Jamila of New Castle, DE
    Nchenui Moundae Jamila of New Castle, DE

    Nchenui Moundae Jamila

    Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Technical High School
    Attending in the fall: TBD

    I am an aspiring aerospace engineer who grew up in the Central African country of Cameroon and moved to the United States when I was 10 years old. Engineering has always been something that I loved, and I was always fixing and assembling things as a child. I never knew exactly what type of engineering I wanted to specialize in, so I decided to apply for the manufacturing and pre-engineering vocational high school program, which explored every aspect of engineering spanning from machining to CAD design, coding, to circuity, rocket science and robotics. Though intrigued by different fields of engineering, I found rocket science, machining, and robotics units the most challenging and interesting. I wanted a specialization that combined all of my interests, and I always had a strong interest in global warming since I was 12 — I even did a science fair project on the effects of co2 emission. While researching the project I found that research and development for electric cars and solar power were almost definitive at the time, but that of electric airplanes was really far off. I then realized that aerospace engineering was perfect for me, as I could incorporate my interest in global warming, fulfill a personal vendetta against my misogynistic culture, and blend many of the types of engineering I had a passion for. I have a long-term goal of being a key part in the development of an electric airplane.

  • Elizabeth Kung of Portland, OR
    Elizabeth Kung of Portland, OR

    Elizabeth Kung

    Sunset High School
    Attending in the fall: TBD

    I was born and raised in Oregon and have always been an active person, curious to try new endeavors. In my early years, I attended a Chinese immersion school, and I am able to fluently read, write, and converse. I love the team atmosphere and the competitive nature of sports, and I’ve played football, was the captain of my rugby team, attended swimming competitions, and achieved a USA Ballroom Dance Nationals 2nd-place finish.

    Space has always been my biggest passion. I was introduced to the magnificence of space through three movies: October Sky showed me how to dream, Hidden Figures showed me how to pursue, and Apollo 13 showed me how to persevere. These films were an inspiration, leading me to participate in engineering classes, visit local companies like Boeing, and compete in the Conrad Challenge, becoming a “Conrad Innovator” for two projects: ClearCube (space debris removal) and Mile One (ecofriendly, sustainable shipping). I also had the pleasure of attending two NASA summer camps: one in Alabama, where my team won the “Commander’s Cup,” and another in Florida, where I witnessed a rocket launch.

    I have a desire to further space exploration. Whether or not this involves working on rockets, researching new materials, assembling rovers, learning to fly, or cleaning up space debris, I want to be part of this special time in history. I intend to pursue a degree in Aerospace/Astronautical Engineering and work in the space industry.

  • Mariah Tammera of Warrenton, VA
    Mariah Tammera of Warrenton, VA

    Mariah Tammera

    Highland School
    Attending in the fall: TBD

    When I was in first grade, my favorite book was There’s No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe. I remember thumbing through the colorful, eye-catching pages and absorbing every little detail about the planets, sun, moon, and lunar rovers. My childhood imagination expanded as thoughts captured these topics. It was from this point on that I realized my wholehearted passion for space exploration.

    In the spring of 2018, my school gave me the opportunity to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, for one week. There, I was able to delve deeper into learning more about the career opportunities in the Aerospace field, while also being challenged to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills in group activities. My experiences at Space Camp sparked an interest in a career in Aerospace Engineering. The specifics of my career aspirations began developing after being accepted into the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) Online Course program during my junior year of high school and subsequently participating in the VASTS Summer Academy: an invitation-only program. While conducting research on robotic space missions for a module assignment, I discovered an inclination toward learning more about robotic space mission rovers and the scientific instruments used on those vehicles.

    All these experiences — from childhood to present day — have encouraged me to set a future career goal aimed at contributing toward furthering humankind’s preparation for long-term space exploration by aspiring to participate in the design and development of robotic apparatuses.


  • Natalie Bretton of Newport News, VA
    Natalie Bretton of Newport News, VA

    Natalie Bretton

    Menchville High School
    Attending in the fall: University of Virginia

    I have participated in FIRST robotics programs for almost a decade. Now, as the mechanical fabrication lead and pit crew lead of Menchville High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, I am responsible for the design and building of our robots, training mechanical sub-team members on using machine shop tools, and troubleshooting mechanical problems under pressure. At competitions, I lead my team’s first all-girl pit crew to win several prestigious and technical awards, making us one of the youngest, yet most successful pit crews the team has ever had. My team also partnered with VCU’s Occupational Therapy program, where we worked collaboratively with Ph.D. students to design and implement assistive technology (AT) - technology that helps those with disabilities. I led the process of designing, modifying, and implementing AT, an experience that taught me just how much STEM can help the people around me. After completing 2 invitation-only NASA summer academies, I discovered that I have a passion for aerospace engineering. As a student at the Governor’s School for Science and Technology(GSST), I was able to further explore this passion through a mentorship at NASA. I worked alongside an aerospace engineer to develop a customizable turbofan engine component in a program called OpenVSP. I am going to continue this project through a paid internship this summer, and hope to publish my work. This coming year, I am excited to be attending the University of Virginia as a Rodman Scholar where I plan to double major in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

  • Madison Chubb of Orlando, FL
    Madison Chubb of Orlando, FL

    Madison Chubb

    Timber Creek High School
    Attending in the fall: University of Florida

    My parents believe that growing up in their own country they were never permitted to figure out who they were. My four younger siblings and I are first-generation Americans, and have always been allowed and encouraged to follow our individual passions. This freedom has allowed me to discover who I truly am inside and what I want to do with my life. I have always been allowed to freely investigate everything I loved. I built, I fixed, and I took a zillion things apart. As a child I would spend hours in my sandbox building different shapes, or sitting on the floor pouring pasta from one saucepan to another through funnels and cardboard tubes. As a six year old I asked for a model jet engine for my birthday. Ever since then I knew I wanted to work with planes. I built hundreds of Lego sets, later moved onto Meccano and now VEX Robotics advancing to States and Worlds. All these things I did as a child have allowed me to realize my passion for aero engineering. Living in different countries I learned to be at ease with who I am. I was the one who was different, and I chose to embrace that, wherever I might be. I am so excited to take the next step into aero engineering and I look forward to all the new exciting things that my future holds!

  • Daichi Horiguchi of Manhattan Beach, CA
    Daichi Horiguchi of Manhattan Beach, CA

    Daichi Horiguch

    Mira Costa High School
    Attending in the fall: Stanford University 

    I’ve had the chance to delve into many different endeavors and skills. I’ve painted thousands of artworks, recently got scouted into and entered a talent agency, have been learning martial arts for the past decade, and especially have spent a great fraction of my life on music. I began learning the violin when I was two and performed a solo with orchestra accompaniment by the time I was four. I have been on news and media since five and have led numerous orchestras as a concertmaster. Music has provided me with phenomenal opportunities like performing solo with the Mira Costa Symphony in Spain, performing for Mr. Bill Clinton, and getting to mentor many young musicians.

    Despite my varying interests, engineering has always been my biggest passion. As a child, I used to break apart and fix household machineries like clocks and printers. I loved finding out the mechanics of any device and gaining knowledge by hands-on experience. I learned woodcrafting and the handling of electric tools in elementary-school, and I learned programming and 3-D modeling in junior-high. After learning metalwork during high-school I turned scrap pieces of motorcycles into a cafe-racer. I now feel that my childhood ambitions and curiosity have grown over the years. It’s always been my dream to become an astronaut, but now I cannot stand not knowing what lies beyond our reach in the universe. My absolute goal is to take part in the Mars colonization plans as an engineer-astronaut and help advance the astronautical-engineering world.

  • Gloria Johnson of Stafford, VA
    Gloria Johnson of Stafford, VA

    Gloria Johnson

    Brooke Point High School
    Attending in the fall: Washington & Jefferson College

    Gloria Johnson is an aspiring aerospace engineer with the goal of changing the face of the fueling of aircraft. Gloria grew up as a military child and was born to immigrant parents from Liberia. As she constantly relocated, Gloria found her love for flying and aircraft. Because Gloria grew up with a more global perspective, due to her cultural background and constant relocation, she wanted to ensure that she was also learning from a holistic approach. To achieve this objective, she applied and was accepted into the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at her high school. IB is an academically extensive program that requires students to be well-rounded in their academics and extracurriculars. While in high school, she also participated in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Program (VASTS) which further inspired her to reach her desire of becoming an aerospace engineer.

    In her pursuit of becoming an aerospace engineer, Gloria has accepted a summer NASA Internship prior to beginning college. She will attend Washington & Jefferson College in the Fall of 2021. She will participate in its dual-degree program with Case Western Reserve University where she will receive bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering. Gloria is thankful as the recipient of this scholarship to assist in supporting her education to help her reach her goals. This investment is not only a blessing to Gloria and her future but will also impact her contributions globally through Aerospace Engineering. Thank you for this opportunity!

 Conrad Challenge AIAA Scholarship Student Winners


  • Kristen Nelson of Mullica Hill, New Jersey
    Kristen Nelson

    Kingsway Regional High School

    Kirsten Nelson is excited to have been honored with the Conrad Challenge Scholarship from the AIAA. She is currently finishing her sophomore year at Kingsway Regional High School and submitted a project to the 2021 Conrad Challenge as a part of the Eir Clean Company team. This company created the ValkEIRe autonomous airplane cleaning device. With the push of a button, this robot will sanitize aircraft using UVC light and disinfectant mist. Eir Clean company was formed through the It’s a Girl’s World STEM mentoring program, which Kirsten has participated in for 3 years. This opportunity has taught her how to develop business plans, practice STEM related activities, and prepare for college with the help of dedicated volunteers.

    Outside of the Conrad Challenge, Kirsten has participated in FIRST Robotics for the past 5 years through a local nonprofit, South Jersey Robotics. Currently, she is on the FIRST Robotics Competition team LUNATECS 316, where she grows her knowledge of engineering, design, and tools. Her time in FIRST has given her the skills and experience necessary to engineer machines including industrial robots, adaptive devices, and the ValkEIRe. After being chosen as a FIRST Dean’s List District Semi-Finalist, Kirsten joined the South Jersey Robotics Board of Directors as a student liaison. When Kirsten is not developing machines, she is found making music with her high school’s marching band or participating in Unified Programs. After her high school graduation in 2023, Kirsten is looking forward to attending college to become an engineer.

 Design|Build|Launch (DBL) Competition Student Winners
  • 2021

    Anna Porter Puckett of Norfolk, Virginia

    Anna Porter Puckett

    Granby High School

    Anna Porter Puckett is a rising junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. Prior to attending Granby, Anna Porter was homeschooled for most of her elementary and middle school years where she cultivated her curiosity in the relationship between the physical world and its history.

    Anna Porter collaborated with Puneeth and Jaden to design the “Acoustic Levitation Under Variable G” project, the second AIAA-sponsored payload to go into flight. Anna Porter contributes to her team by offering her creativity, strategic planning, and communication skills to help create an innovative project with broad appeal. She believes that humans have a fundamental interest in understanding the world and how it works. Although not everyone will become an aerospace professional, anyone can find a way to use their gifts to contribute to discovery.

    Anna Porter is proud to represent the growing number of women in STEM. She would like to show girls that space discoveries and developments impact everyone, and to encourage them to participate in STEM projects and programs. When she is not brainstorming with Jaden and Puneeth, Anna Porter loves to read, play soccer, and travel.

  • Puneeth Bheesetty of Norfolk, Virginia

    Puneeth Bheesetty

    Granby High School

    Puneeth Bheesetty is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. He has been interested in space since childhood. He always looks up at the starry sky and believes that the future of humanity is in space. His ambition is to push the boundaries of space exploration by contributing to the innovation of space exploration vehicles. He is also enrolled in the Norfolk Science, Technology and Advanced Research, or NORSTAR program in Norfolk, which allows him to pursue his passion for space exploration. Puneeth is the team leader for the project “Acoustic Levitation Under Variable G”. Puneeth will contribute to the research of acoustic levitation, and lead the team as they design, build, and test the acoustic levitator.

    Puneeth is also involved in other projects related to aerospace engineering. He is an amateur model rocketeer, building high and low power rockets. He recently qualified for the national finals in the Team American Rocketry Challenge. Besides rocketry, Puneeth loves to code in his free time and practice offensive cybersecurity skills. He hopes to attend California Institute of Technology and contribute to the advancement of space exploration.

  • Jaden Shawyer of Norfolk, Virginia

    Jaden Shawyer

    Granby High School

    Jaden Shawyer is a rising junior who attends the International Baccalaureate program at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. Jaden loves learning and challenging himself and is also a member of the Granby High basketball and track teams. Before attending Granby High School, Jaden attended The Williams School in Norfolk, where he first discovered his love of science.

    Jaden used his strong science and mathematics background to contribute to the Blue Origin proposal with Puneeth and Anna Porter. His innovative problem-solving abilities will help him contribute to building and testing the “Acoustic Levitation Under Variable G” project. Building the acoustic levitator will be a new experience for Jaden and he is keen to expand his horizons and explore new areas of interest.

    Jaden believes that inclusive teams made up of people from diverse backgrounds and different perspectives can spark innovation and creativity. He sees active listening and teamwork as an important way to bring people together to collaborate and learn from each other. He is excited about what the group can accomplish together.

Puneeth Bheesetty
Puneeth Bheesetty
Jaden Shawyer, Anna Porter Puckett, and Puneeth Bheesetty
Anna Porter Puckett, Jaden Shawyer, and Puneeth Bheesetty
 International Science and Engineering Festival (ISEF) AIAA “Look Up!” Award Winners


  • First Place Winner of $2,000
    Isabella Weiner
    Isabella Weiner of Rockledge, FL

    ENMC033 - In situ Resource Utilization of Martian Regolith for Construction, Year Four

    Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy

    Attending in the fall: University of Notre Dame

  • Second Place Winner of $1,500
    Max Schaldach of Zurich, Switzerland

    ENMC079 - Development of a Rotor with Improved Aerodynamics to Propel a Quadcopter - Design and Manufacture According to the Laws of the Propeller Theory by Betz and Schmitz

    Freies Gymnasium Zurich

    Attending in the fall: Olin College

  • Third Place Winner of $1,000
    Melanie Deville
    Melanie Deville of Coral Gables , FL

    PHYS002 - Visualization of Three-Dimensional Aerospike Nozzle Flow Using Schlieren Photography

    Westminster Christian School