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18-Year-Old Engineer Builds Flying Wing Aircraft Prototype

The award-winning design fetched a $75,000 award from Intel.

Amber Yang (from left), Ivo Zell and Valerio Pagliarino take the stage on Friday, May 19, 2017, at the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair.
Amber Yang (from left), Ivo Zell and Valerio Pagliarino take the stage on Friday, May 19, 2017, at the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair.
The Society for Science & the Public

Ivo Zell, 18, of Lorch, Germany was awarded first place for designing and constructing a remote control prototype of a new “flying wing” aircraft at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public and the world’s largest international pre-college science competition.

The competition featured nearly 1,800 young scientists selected from 425 affiliate fairs in 78 countries, regions and territories.

Flying wings are inherently more efficient than traditional aircraft designs, but also less stable in flight because they have little or no fuselage or tail.

Zell’s working prototype aircraft addresses this issue, using an unusual bell-shaped lift profile for improved stability and using telemetry to demonstrate its stability. The modified shape of Zell’s aircraft allows it to operate smoothly and safely in challenging flight situations without the need for a complex electronic stabilization system and without significantly sacrificing fuel efficiency.

Potential applications range from drone delivery systems to larger aircraft design. Zell received the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000, named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.

Amber Yang, 18, of Windermere, Florida received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of $50,000 for her innovative approach to predicting the locations of clouds of space debris that move in low Earth orbit.

An estimated 500,000 space trash objects now pose a potential hazard for spacecraft. Yang adapted an algorithm to train her own artificial neural network to recognize space objects in a specific debris cloud and predict their future locations.

Valerio Pagliarino, 17, of Castelnuovo Calcea, Italy received the other Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000 for his prototype of a novel laser-based, wireless, high-speed network. Motivated by the lack of reliable Internet access in his rural locale, Pagliarino designed his new system using off-the-shelf components and then built and tested a small version of the network.

In addition to the top winners, approximately 600 finalists received awards and prizes for their innovative research, including 22 “Best of Category” winners, who each received a $5,000 prize.

The Intel Foundation also awarded a $1,000 grant to each winner’s school and to the affiliated fair they represent.

The following lists the 22 Best of Category winners, from which the top three were chosen:

Category First Last City State/Country
Animal Sciences Jessica Young Wellington Florida
Behavioral and Social Sciences Erin Smith Lenexa Kansas
Biochemistry Karina Movsesian Karlovy Vary Czech Republic
Biomedical and Health Sciences Daniel Zhang San Diego California
Biomedical Engineering Clara Wagner Saginaw Michigan
Cellular and Molecular Biology Davey Huang Honolulu Hawaii
Chemistry Kyle Fridberg Boulder Colorado
Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Prathik Naidu Potomac Falls Virginia
Earth and Environmental Sciences Adam Nayak Portland Oregon
Embedded Systems Valerio Pagliarino Castelnuovo Calcea Italy
Energy: Chemical Kendra Zhang Jericho New York
Energy: Physical Camille Miles Niceville Florida
Engineering Mechanics Ivo Zell Lorch Germany
Environmental Engineering Prashaant Ranganathan Jamshedpur India
Materials Science Nicky Wojtania Plano Texas
Mathematics Karthik Yegnesh Lansdale Pennsylvania
Microbiology Rahul Subramaniam Cos Cob Connecticut
Physics and Astronomy Amber Yang Windermere Florida
Plant Sciences Isabella Bowland Boulder Colorado
Robotics and Intelligent Machines Tassilo Schwarz Seeon Germany
Systems Software Michael Lee Manhasset New York
Translational Medical Science Jeremiah Pate Oro Valley Arizona

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair encourages millions of students to explore their passion for developing innovations that improve the way we work and live.

All finalists are selected by an affiliated, local competition and receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. At the competition, finalists are judged by hundreds of science, engineering and industry professionals who have a Ph.D. or equivalent (six years of related professional experience) or are senior graduate students with doctoral-level research in one of the 22 scientific disciplines listed above.

The 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation with additional support from dozens of corporate, academic, government and science-focused sponsors.

This year, approximately $4 million was awarded.
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