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The Secretary of Transportation's RAISE Award

The Secretary of Transportation, through the Office of Aviation and International Affairs and in conjunction with partners in the Federal Aviation Administration, the Office Department of Transportation Seal of Research and Innovative Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, sponsors an annual competition to recognize students in the aviation and aerospace fields.  The competition – called the Secretary’s Recognizing Aviation & Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) award – spurs students at high schools and universities to think creatively by developing innovative solutions to real-world aviation and aerospace challenges, and to share those innovations with the broader community. The award winners are those who demonstrate outstanding and unique scientific and engineering innovations.

The Challenge:

In 2014, the Secretary has decided to create two divisions within the Secretary’s RAISE Award: a high school division and a university division (encompassing both undergraduate and graduate students).  Winners will be formally recognized by the Secretary of Transportation on behalf of a partnership of government and private sector organizations.

Shaking handsThe submission period for this competition is April 1, 2014, to Dec 30, 2014.

Please visit the official announcement of this competition here. 



To be eligible to participate in the Secretary’s RAISE Award competition, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  For the high school division, the students must have been enrolled in at least one semester (or quarterly equivalent) at a U.S. high school (or equivalent approved home school program) in 2014.  For the University division, the student must have been enrolled in a U.S.-based college or university for at least one semester (or quarterly equivalent) in 2014.  Students may participate and be recognized as individuals or in teams.  Each member of a team must meet the eligibility criteria.  An individual may join more than one team.  There is no charge to enter the competition.

The following additional rules apply:

  1. Candidates shall submit a project in the competition under the rules promulgated by the Department
  2. Candidates shall agree to execute indemnifications and waivers of claims against the Federal government as provided in this Notice;
  3. Candidates may not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of employment;
  4. Candidates may not be an employee of the Department, including but not limited to the Federal Aviation Administration, or the Research and Innovative Technology Administration;
  5. Candidates shall not be deemed ineligible because an individual used Federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a competition, if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals participating in the competition on an equitable basis;
  6. The competition is subject to all applicable Federal laws and regulations.  Participation constitutes the Candidates’ full and unconditional agreement to these rules and to the Secretary’s decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to this competition;
  7. Submissions which in the Secretary’s sole discretion are determined to be substantially similar to a prior submitted entry may be disqualified;
  8. Submissions must be original, be the work of the Candidates, and must not violate the rights of other parties.  All submissions remain the property of the applicants.  Each Candidate represents and warrants that he, she, or the team, is the sole author and owner of the submission, that the submission is wholly original, that it does not infringe any copyright or any other rights of any third party of which the Candidate is aware, and, if submitted in electronic form, is free of malware;
  9. By submitting an entry in this contest, contestants and entrants agree to assume any and all risks and waive any claims against the Federal Government and its related entities (except in the case of willful misconduct) for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from their participation in this contest, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence of otherwise. Provided, however, that by registering or  submitting an entry, contestants and entrants do not waive claims against the Department arising out of the unauthorized use or disclosure by the agency of the intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential information of the entrant;
  10. The Secretary and the Secretary’s designees have the right to request access to supporting materials from the Candidates;
  11. The submissions cannot have been submitted in the same or substantially similar form in any previous Federally-sponsored promotion or Federally-sponsored contest, of any kind;
  12. Each Candidate grants to the Department, as well as other Federal agencies with which it partners, the right to use names, likeness, application materials, photographs, voices, opinions, and/or hometown and state for the Department’s promotional purposes in any media, in perpetuity, worldwide, without further payment or consideration; and
  13. The Secretary collects personal information from Candidates when they enter this competition.  The information collected is subject to the ChallengePost privacy policy located at

Expression of Interest:

While not required, students are strongly encouraged to send brief expressions of interest to the Department to be considered for an award.  The expressions of interest should include the following elements: (1) Name of Candidate(s); (2) Name of educational institution(s) with which Candidate(s) are affiliated; (2) Telephone and email addresses for Candidate(s); (3) brief high-level overview of the proposed project.

Submission Requirements:

  1. Nomination letter from at least one teacher, advisor, faculty member, and others as appropriate.  The nomination letter(s) must communicate accomplishments in the following areas:
  • Technical Merit of the Concept

Evidence of technical merit based upon teacher (parent or legal guardian in the case of home schooled applicants), advisor, or faculty nomination and evaluation of the submitted proposal, written    paper, and/or reports.

  • Professionalism and Leadership

Evidence of professionalism and leadership may be in the form of, but not limited to:

  1. Membership and offices held in various groups
  2. Presentations made to various groups, meetings, and at symposia
  3. Leadership in student professional activities
  4. Community outreach activities
  5. An overall summary of the innovation, not to exceed one page, which includes a title of the project and statement of the impact that the innovation will have on the field of aviation or aerospace;
  6. A copy of the student’s academic transcript or certified grade report (as applicable);
  7. A copy of the paper(s) and related materials describing the innovative concept written by the student(s) being nominated (no page limit).

Once submissions have been received, the Department may request additional information, including supporting documentation, more detailed contact information, releases of liability, and statements of authenticity to guarantee the originality of the work.  Failure to respond in a timely fashion may result in disqualification.

All materials should be forwarded with a cover letter to the attention of:

Patricia Watts, Ph.D.
Centers of Excellence Program Director
Federal Aviation Administration, L-28
FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center
Atlantic City International Airport, NJ 08405

Hardcopy is preferred; however, the package also may be transmitted by email to  Submissions must be sent by 3:00 pm Eastern daylight time on December 30, 2014.  The timeliness of submissions will be determined by the postmark (if sent in hard copy) or time stamp of the recipient (if emailed).  Award administrators assume no responsibility for lost or untimely submissions for any reason.


The winner will be announced as soon as possible after the submission date. A trophy with the winner’s name and date of award will be displayed at the Department of Transportation and a display copy of the trophy will be sent to the winner’s school/college/university. An additional plaque or trophy will be awarded to the individual or team.At the option of the Secretary, the Department will pay for invitational travel expenses to Washington, DC for up to four representatives of the winning teams to present their project to Department officials and receive the award from the Secretary.

Basis Upon Which the Winners Will Be Selected:

All submissions will be initially reviewed by the FAA Centers for Excellence Program Director upon receipt to determine if the submissions meet the eligibility requirements.  Registration packages meeting the eligibility requirements will be judged by advisory panels consisting of academic experts, government officials including FAA, the Department, and representatives of the private sector.  The advisory panels will select the most highly qualified submissions and present them to the Secretary of the Department, who will select the winning entrant.

Submissions will be judged against other submissions from the same division on the following criteria:

Technical Merit:

  • Has the submission presented a clear understanding of the associated problems?
  • Has the submission developed a logical and workable solution and approach to solving the problem/s?
  • What are the most significant aspects of this concept?
  • Has the submission clearly described the breadth of impact of the innovation?


  • Is this concept new or a variation of an existing idea, and in what way(s)?
  • How is this work unique?
  • Was the concept developed independently or in cooperation with others?


  • To what extent will this project make a significant impact and/or contribution to the future of the aviation and aerospace environment?


  • Who directly benefits from this work?
  • Can this program or activity be implemented in a practical fashion?
  • What are the costs anticipated to be incurred and saved by executing this concept?


  • How has this individual/group measured the impact on the aviation environment?
  • To what extent does the innovation result in measurable improvements?


  • Can this effort be scaled?
  • Is this work specific to one region, various regions, or to the entire nation?

All factors are important and will be given consideration, but the advisory panels will give the “technical merit” factor the most weight in the screening process.  The Secretary retains sole discretion to select the winning entrant.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia Watts, Ph.D., Federal Aviation Administration, (609) 485-5043,, or James Brough, Federal Aviation Administration, (781) 238-7027,

Additional Information:

Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications.

Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act challenge submission.

Past Winners:

The 2012 RAISE Award went to a team of students from Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut. Mario Chris, Miraj Rahematpura and Chris Muckle submitted plans and research findings for a light-weight, variable-angle winglet. As part of their submission, the students created and tested a model of their design and calculated how this new technology could save money by reducing fuel costs.

When the Xavier students visited Washington to receive this first-annual award, the Department also recognized their faculty advisor, Michael Humphreys, who served as a mentor to the students while they worked on their project. Mr. Humphreys played a key role in developing the engineering program at Xavier High School and has encouraged his students to participate in challenge programs such as the Secretary’s RAISE Award.

The 2013 RAISE Award winner was Kyle Smith, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and pilot-in-training for the United States Air Force. After the Academy, Kyle enrolled in a graduate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he became involved in research on aircraft collision avoidance.

Kyle’s submission for the Secretary’s RAISE Award –called “Collision Avoidance System Optimization” – contained new software logic to tune the new ACAS X, a next-generation collision avoidance system, for operations on parallel runways. In other words, using Mr. Smith’s logic, planes will be able to land safely in close proximity once ACAS X is enabled. ACAS X and the logic that Kyle developed are undergoing testing and development at the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ.