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Paper airplanes give future engineers a “lift”

HS students test their paper airplanes.

By Ron Mackovich

More than 100 students from STEM Academy of Boyle Heights, STEM Academy of Hollywood and Diamond Bar High School visited the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to compete in a “paper airplane” challenge—a contest bridging theoretical math and physics with a physical test: Hopeful teams plotted out their calculations to ask the perennial question of aeronautical engineers everywhere: will it fly?

Adrian Figueroa of STEM Academy of Hollywood launched a plane that flew 143 feet, taking the prize for greatest distance. The prize for best engineering documentation went to Rajvir Dua of Diamond Bar High. Student teams also won recognition for creative design and longest flight times.

The contest was the brainchild of Leslie Guandique, a USC Viterbi junior who transferred to USC from East LA Community College, and is a member of the USC Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the USC Society of Women Engineers.

Leslie Guandique preps for the airplane contest Inset Photo: Leslie Guandique preps for the airplane contest. Photo courtesy Dr. Katie Mills.

“I was trying to reach potential first generation students,” said Guandique, “I wanted these kids to go home and show their parents what they did, so they’ll have a sense of pride. I want it to motivate them to pursue a college education with enthusiasm.” Guandique also planned a math challenge that participating teachers gave to their students in advance, so the students would have time to understand the relationship between math and aerospace engineering before participating in the challenge.

The competition was sponsored by the USC Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher (VAST) program. VAST, under the direction of Dr. Katie Mills, inspires young generations, their families, and teachers through the creativity and social benefits of research in science, technology, engineering and math.

Lead photo: Students from STEM Academy of Hollywood test their creations (USC Photo / Gus Ruelas).

Related stories: Engineering student helps high schooler’s aerospace dreams take flight