HAMPTON, Va. – NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate has identified the winners of its high school contest to describe “Air Transportation in 2057.” Sarah Vaden from Roanoke Valley Governor’s School in Roanoke, Va., and Emma Peterson from Burnsview Secondary School in Delta, British Columbia, won top prizes for their essays on the theme.

Teens from across the United States and six foreign countries submitted 88 essays in four categories: U.S. individual, U.S. team, international individual and international team. In all, 14 teams and 75 individual students submitted essays to NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program, which sponsored the contest. The top U.S. team was Tyler Pennington, Morgan Harless, and Jared Hagan from Linwood Holton Governor’s School in Abingdon, Va. The top international team was Nombuso Ndlovu, Shoki Kobe, and Lerato Mthembu from the Lotus Hardens High School in Pretoria, South Africa.

“I wish I had been that articulate in high school,” said Juan Alonso, director of NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington. “What’s particularly gratifying is that many of the students said they were interested in working for NASA in the future. And now we’ve learned that South Africa has just designated the aeronautics contest the official international section of their aviation science program, which will allow even more schools to participate.”

NASA will award the top scoring essays from the United States with a trophy and a cash prize of $1,000 (to be shared, in the case of the team). Non-U.S. students will receive a trophy but are not eligible for cash prizes. All participants will receive a NASA certificate and a personal letter of commendation from a NASA official.

The essays were reviewed by 24 NASA managers and engineers from four NASA centers: Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, and Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. They based their scores on how well students focused their essays and how well they addressed four basic criteria: informed content, creativity and imagination, organization and writing.

Following top individual student Vaden were two teens who tied for second place: Michael Donelson, a junior from Flagstaff High School, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Meghan Ferrall, a junior from Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla. Jacob Monat, a senior from Kee High School in Lansing, Iowa, was awarded the third place individual award. Honorable mention awards went to Tamara Cottam, a junior from Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Ky.; Sam Rochelle, a freshman from Cary Academy, in Cary, N.C.; and Daniel Ho, a junior from the High School of Economics and Finance in New York.

The second and third place individual international awards went to senior level students from India. Second place went to Yashraj Khaitan from the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, and third place was awarded to Ketan Sharma from the Amity International School in Haryana.

The second place U.S. team winners were two students from Midwood High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. Third place went to a four-member team from Lourdes High School, in Rochester, Minn. Honorable mention went to another team also from Midwood High School. In the international team contest, second place was awarded to four seniors from Pakistan, and third place went to two 10th graders from Romania.

Most of the students who participated were high school juniors, but entries also came in from freshmen, sophomores and seniors. Some of the American high school students say they plan to study aerospace-related subjects in college. One senior student wrote that he planned to pursue aerospace at the Air Force Academy. Another senior, a National Merit Scholar, expects to major in aerospace engineering this fall at Iowa State University.

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