Mountain View engineering team

The AZ Top Gun engineering team from Mountain View, Taylor Parra, Erin Stone, David Ogden, Mariah Desmarais and AJ Del Conte, show off the first place award they won at the state Real World Challenge competition. Not pictured, Gregory Wilburn.

Courtesy photo

Some of the best and brightest at Mountain View High School gave up a lot of their spare time to team up and win their second Real World Design Challenge state competition in April. The team is now preparing for national competition.

The team, which is known as AZ Top Guns, consists of AJ Del Castillo, Erin Stone, Mariah Desmarias, David Ogden, Taylor Parra and Gregory Wilborn.

Several of the students will already be in their first year of college when the national competition takes place in November.

“The seniors will still get to compete, they will just fly to D.C. from their college locations,” said Robert Kennerly, the team’s advisor.

The four seniors will be heading to Washington D.C. from The U.S. Naval Academy, Vanderbilt, Embry-Riddle and the University of Arizona.

In this year’s competition, the students had to look at an insect problem with corn and create their own unmanned aircraft system designed to monitor and assess crop conditions to increase yield.

“They had to develop an (Unmanned aircraft system), identify the fastest and most optimal search pattern, reduce costs of that system, and make a business case for a farmer to buy the system while increasing profits,” said Kennerly. At state, they had to turn in a design notebook and then the top four teams were chosen to make a 15-minute presentation outlining their business case and engineering design.

“At state, the combination of a quality notebook and presentation made our team the winner,” Kennerly said. “At nationals, the challenge has some minor changes and teams will submit their updated notebook and then present in Washington D.C. Then they will give out merit awards and the top three teams will present in front of a blue ribbon panel made up of top executives of engineering design firms.”

The was time consuming, with a lot of the work being done on their own time.

“The biggest challenge in the first part of the challenge was finding the time where our whole team could meet in person and work on the aspects of the challenge,” said student Del Castro. “We implemented what we called ‘work days’ in order to solve this problem. ‘Work days’ were basically days where we all met at school and worked all of the school day, with permission of our teachers of course, on the project.”

The project took nearly six months to complete, but all of the competitors seemed to enjoy the experience.

“The competition was one of the highlights of my senior year,” said Desmarias. “One of the biggest challenges as a group was attempting to coordinate meetings and accomplishing tasks with us all involved in so many activities. We had to sacrifice a lot of time from our other commitments.”

Although the project was a fun one to put together, it was not always easy.

“We constantly updated our submission, even taking a few days off from school to work for the entire day, stressing until we were finished just a few hours before the submission deadline,” said Wilborn. “It was rewarding to know that our constant hard work paid off with a trip to nationals in Washington, D.C. We hope to continue our success against the best teams from across the nations.”

It will be the second trip to nationals for three of the team members and that should be a huge advantage for the Top Guns.

“Being that it was our second year in the competition, we knew how to manage our time in order to work efficiently and research each element of the challenge thoroughly,” Del Castro said. “I think that gave us a bit of an edge against our competition.”

The team will work together over the summer on the project, then have to work via Skype next fall as five of the six will be away at college. They believe working remotely will be the toughest aspect of the next phase of the project, but Kennerly believes this group has what it takes to make it work.

“They have been successful because they have bought into my philosophy of not settling for mediocrity,” Kennerly. “They all strive for being the best. They have really taken all of the skills that you learn in high school and put them to use.”

Kennerly was proud to point out that the hard work and determination that they have shown has helped propel them to some prestigious schools.

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