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!

*This competition is subject to all applicable laws, including US export laws. US law prevents AIAA from awarding prize money to, or providing substantive feedback on entries from, persons residing in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Crimea, Sudan, or Syria.

Note to Report Submitters: Only the person who submitted the letter of intent may submit the final report.

Design Competitions

2021 Design Competitions RFP Submissions

Are you interested in providing a design challenge for use in AIAA’s student design competitions? Do you want to be a part of enhancing and improving the student experience with AIAA? Then please consider submitting a Request For Proposal (RFP) by 10 March 2020 (2359 hrs EST) to an AIAA Design Competition. RFPs are submitted by professional members, and students respond by writing reports addressing the problem and compete for cash prizes. Please consider submitting your RFP. If you have questions, please contact the Student Programs team at

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2020 Design Competitions
Aircraft Design Competitions

Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition
RFP: 34876 2019-2020 RFP - GA Trainer Family
*For technical questions related to the RFP, please contact Jeff Corbets at

Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition
RFP: High Capacity Short Range Transport Aircraft
*This is an updated copy of a previously posted RFP. Please refer to page 2 for the correction, listed in blue text.
*For technical questions related to the RFP, please contact Andrew Dorsey at

Gas Turbine (Engine) Design Competitions
Sponsored by NPSS

Undergraduate Team Gas Turbine (Engine) Design Competition
RFP: Candidate Engines for a Supersonic Business Jet
*For technical questions related to the RFP, please contact Andrew Yatsko at

AIAA has partnered with SoftInWay, Inc. to ensure that students competing in this competition have access to the software required to answer the task specified in the Request-For-Proposal (RFP).

Step I: In order to access this software, you must save and finalize your letter of intent for approval. Please make sure you submit the following information as requested in the submission form:

  • University Name
  • Names of all members of the team, including advisors

Step II: After submitting this Letter of Intent, please contact the AIAA Student Competition Chair, listed with the abstract, who will then contact SoftInWay to grant the license

Space Systems Design Competitions

Undergraduate Team Space Systems Design Competition
RFP: Lunar Base Camp
*For technical questions related to the RFP, please contact Patrick Chai at

Missile Systems Design Competitions

Graduate Team Missile Systems Design Competition
RFP: Supersonic Aerial Target
*For technical questions related to the RFP please contact Dustin Otten at


  • Letter of intent submitted via online submission site – 14 February 2020 (2359 hrs Eastern Time)
  • Proposal submitted via online submission site – 14 May 2020 (2359 hrs Eastern Time)
  • Announcement of Winners (via email) – August 2020 (Dependent on review committee schedule)
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.

Conflict of Interest

It should be noted that it shall be considered a conflict of interest for a design professor to write or assist in writing RFPs and/or judging proposals submitted if (s)he will have students participating in, or that can be expected to participate in those competitions. A design professor with such a conflict must refrain from participating in the development of such competition RFPs and/or judging any proposals submitted in such competitions.


*This competition is subject to all applicable laws, including US export laws. US law prevents AIAA from awarding prize money to, or providing substantive feedback on entries from, persons residing in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Crimea, Sudan, or Syria.

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.

The top three design teams will be awarded certificates. One representative from the first place team may be invited by the Technical Committee responsible for the RFP to make a presentation of their design at an AIAA forum. A travel stipend may be available for some competitions, with a maximum travel stipend of $750 which may be used to help with costs for flight, hotel, or conference registration to attend an AIAA forum.

Aircraft Design Competitions

  • Graduate Team Aircraft
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $250; 3rd Place: $125
  • Undergraduate Team Aircraft – Thin Haul Transport and Air Taxi
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $250; 3rd Place: $125

Gas Turbine (Engine) Design Competition

  • Undergraduate Team Engine
    • 1st Place: $1000; 2nd Place: $600; 3rd Place $500

Space Systems Design Competition

  • Undergraduate Team Space Transportation
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $300; 3rd Place: $250

Missile Systems Design Competition

  • Graduate Team Missile Systems Design Competition
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $250; 3rd Place: $125
Frequently Asked Questions

What design software is recommended/required to enter into the competitions?
Recommended design software has been outlined in the relevant RFPs. Please refer to the RFP for more information.

How long does the final report have to be?
The final report must be no longer than 100 pages, double-spaced and in 10-point Times New Roman font. This includes all charts, figures, photographs, graphs, and references.

When will winners be announced?
Design competition winners are typically announced the following summer, however, announcement of winners is dependent on Technical Committee review and judging schedule.

How will entrants be notified of their placement in the competition?
AIAA will only notify a team of their placement if they place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in their relevant design competition. AIAA will not notify those teams that did not place.
AIAA will also send prize checks and recognition certificates following the conclusion of the competition, along with travel stipends if the relevant competition includes a trip to an AIAA Forum. For teams, prize checks will be sent payable to the winning university; for individuals, prize checks will be sent payable to the individual author on the final report.
Please note: This competition is subject to all applicable laws, including US export laws. US law prevents AIAA from awarding prize money to, or providing substantive feedback on entries from, persons residing in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Crimea, Sudan, or Syria.

How will I be able to access judge comments and feedback on our proposal?
Feedback is only available upon request. AIAA regrets to inform you that we cannot share the judges’ contact information with the teams.

Can I team up with students from another university? What about another country?
Yes; AIAA allows students to form teams with other students around the world.

Does everyone on my team need to be an AIAA student member?
Yes, you must all be AIAA student members. Student membership is $28 per year. Please go to to join.

I have another question that hasn’t been answered in these FAQs. Where can I ask it?
If you have submitted a letter of intent to participate in design competitions, you should have received an invitation to participate in a special Engage site that we created for design competitions. If you have not received an invitation, (or have not submitted a letter but would still like to ask a question) please send an email to

Winning Reports