KENNEWICK -- If you don't know how to perform a "static aeroelastic solution sequence," don't get down on yourself. Few people do.
Most Washingtonians who know what that means work for Boeing or are putting together their master's theses.
But there are a six teens at Kamiakin High School who have it figured out.
The students won the Washington State Real World Design Challenge to design a wing to make a Boeing 737-sized jet more efficient.
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Now they will compete against teams nationwide on April 16 at the national challenge in Washington, D.C.
The annual high school competition is run by a public-private partnership, including the Department of Energy.
The program requires students to solve real-world problems with the help of engineers working in the field.The instructions at realworlddesignchallenge.com are enough to scare off all but the bravest teenage science buffs.
The challenge is so difficult, in fact, that only Kamiakin students have taken it on since the competition has been offered in the state, said Dennis Millikan from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
But the fact that they were the only entry doesn't mean the Kamiakin team didn't pull off an admirable feat.
The students -- sophomores Sangeetha Thevuthasan and Joe Luey, and seniors Grace Choi, Amanda White, Collin Bampton and James Luey -- still had to meet all criteria of the challenge to qualify for the nationals.
That meant optimizing a wing design for minimal drag and maximum lift at speeds of about 540 mph and an altitude of 36,000 feet. They also had to factor in a tank holding 40,000 pounds of fuel inside the wing.
To do this, the students were given access to engineering software worth more than $1 million. That included drafting programs and software to test aerodynamics and the behavior of different materials under stress.
The software aided the design work, but it also presented a steep learning curve.
"This isn't exactly (Microsoft) Word," James Luey said, pointing at a screen showing the wing his team put together.
He then clicked through a few menus. The three-dimensional rendering rotated around every axis and showed how it would bend if pressure were applied at a certain spot.
They spent many hours watching instructional videos before they even began designing. Then they perused a database holding thousands of wing shapes. Next, they came up with 80 possible combinations of shapes and materials, which they ran through computer tests.
They started in September and have put in five to six hours every week since.
Their adviser, Kennewick architect Terrance Casey, put the team in touch with engineers from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, whom the students called and e-mailed for advice.
They even toured Boeing's facilities in Western Washington with one of the engineers to get a close up look at a real 737 wing.
It's been a lot of work.
"I've always been a math nerd," Thevuthasan said. "And I want to get into engineering."
One student after another said they are determined to become engineers.
"I love designing and doing math," Choi said.
But they still are teens. When the deadline came around, they weren't as far along as they'd wished.
"The week before we turned it in, we had to do a 36-hour marathon," Bampton said. "Hey, we're high schoolers -- we procrastinate."