Each year, the competition challenges students to research a particular real-world issue in aeronautics and to develop their own solutions to the problem.
Past participants in NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Student Competition said the experience was a rewarding one that helped them learn more about aeronautics and encouraged them to improve their approaches to research and creative problem-solving.
In the 2008-2009 competition, students were challenged to develop ideas for making commercial supersonic air transportation available by 2020. Contest participants did so by examining obstacles to supersonic transportation and proposing solutions. In an additional challenge, some students submitted designs for a small supersonic airliner.