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!

Design Competitions

2020 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
*For technical questions related to the RFP, please contact Andrew Dorsey at

Gas Turbine Design Competitions

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

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


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.


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 - Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (E-VTOL) Aircraft
  • Undergraduate Team Aircraft – Thin Haul Transport and Air Taxi
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $300; 3rd Place: $250
  • Undergraduate Individual Aircraft – Power Line Survey Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    • 1st Place: $1,000; 2nd Place: $500; 3rd Place: $300

Engine Design Competition

  • Undergraduate Team Engine – Candidate Engines for Hybrid Electric Medium Altitude Long Endurance Search and Rescue UAV
    • 1st Place: $1,000; 2nd Place: $600; 3rd Place $500

Space Systems Design Competition

  • Undergraduate Team Space Systems Design – Reusable Lunar Surface Access Vehicle
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $300; 3rd Place: $250

Structures Design Competition

  • Graduate Team Structures – Design of the Structure for a VTOL Taxi
  • Undergraduate Team Structures – Design of Deployable Solar Array Structure
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $300; 3rd Place: $250

Missile Systems Design Competition

  • Undergraduate Team Space Design – Design of Deployable Solar Array Structure
    • 1st Place: $500; 2nd Place: $300; 3rd Place: $250

Winning Reports