A Mesa teen is being nationally recognized for his wit as well as his science fair project dedicated to improving aircraft safety.
Red Mountain High School freshman Rylan Gardner recently placed first in engineering at the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition – a Society for Science & the Public program aims to inspire middle school students to follow their passions in STEM.
Rylan secured a $3,500 stipend to attend a STEM summer camp of his choice after demonstrating strong critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration skills during a variety of STEM-related challenges.
Not only did Rylan secure his $3,500 STEM summer camp stipend, but he also received his very own planet.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory named a planet the Rylangardner in honor of the teen genius.
“He was very good,” said Maya Ajmera, Society for Science & the Public President and CEO. “He was a leader and worked in a team well.”
“He was great at communicating and then quiet when he needed to be – some people get anxious,” she added, “but he had calmness and really shined.”
Rylan is also being awarded for his project, “Stall/Spin Recovery Via Increased Lift and Upwards Pitching Moment Using the Magnus Effect.”
He completed with his twin brother, Ian, for their school science fair at Franklin Junior High in August 2018.
The project seeks to help pilots regain control of aircraft spinning or stalling.
The winners were chosen from a total of 30 finalists –18 girls and 12 boys – were selected from 2,348 applicants in 47 states.
A panel of scientists, engineers and educators honored the students during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 29, with more than $100,000 given in total.
“I was excited,” said Rylan. “It was fun to work with other people who also like science.”
The brothers, who want to pursue careers in aerospace, were inspired after reading a copy of “The Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics” by Hubert Smith from their school’s library – they eventually asked for their own copies for Christmas.
“We both like aerodynamics and wanted to do something about it as a project,” said Ian.
Although the teens knew they wanted to find a creative way to alter the “aerodynamics of airplanes during flight to aid recovery,” they weren’t quite sure how they wanted to approach it.
“When it first started, we had zero knowledge – but we were supposed to have a plan of exactly how we were going to do it,” Rylan explained.
“Our teacher was nice enough to let us have an exception to where we didn’t have to have an exact plan,” he continued. “Because we were figuring it out as we went.”
The siblings were then granted permission to use Red Mountain’s engineering lab to test their products.
Tjeu eventually agreed on a safety design using a backward spinning cylinder on the leading edge of an aircraft’s wing.
The spinning cylinder is intended to make the plane rotate downwards, increase its lift and reduce its drag, Rylan said.
“Potentially, the system could reduce crashes and improve the safety of modern air travel,” he noted.
They made a radio-controlled prototype from a Sky Raider glider and ran tests at the high school’s wind tunnel.
The design harnesses the characteristics of the Magnus effect, explained Ian, which addresses why curveballs curve when baseball pitchers throw them.
“It applies to spheres and cylinders – anything circular,” he said. “When you’re in a stall, you don’t have a lot of controls.”
“When you’re low enough, you’re just going to hit the ground,” he added. “Our system made it pitch up.”
After countless sleepless nights, Rylan and Ian were ready to compete in their school’s science fair in February 2019.
They received the first-ever “perfect score” at the school competition, before moving on to secure first place at the district level and tying for first at state.
In May, they were nominated to apply for Broadcom.
Each year, the top 10 percent of sixth-, seventh- and-eighth-grade participants are nominated to enter this competition, according to the Broadcom website.
Though both brothers attempted to apply, only Rylan met the deadline.
“I barely finished my application right before the deadline,” said Rylan. “I had like 60 seconds to spare.”
Rylan and his family flew to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 25, to enter the three-day competition.
He competed in a team of five students, where they were judged on their abilities to adapt to new challenges, solve problems and work collaboratively.
The judges based 20 percent of their decisions on the actual project and 80 percent on how the students competed in the challenges.
“They’re not testing what your knowledge is; they’re testing how you adapt to learning new things and work with a team,” said Rylan. “I was feeling a little intimidated, but it was just fun.”
Several of the challenges included designing a device that could transport medicine via a drone, as well as building underwater submarines out of PVC pipes with motors and electronics.
“I’m really proud of what they accomplished,” said Kisha. “They’re great kids, and I think, more than anything, I’m proud at the fact they came up with the idea themselves and did it all on their own.”