AeroTech Challenge


AeroTech Challenge

  • AeroTech Challenge

    What's it about?

    Our exciting new primary Challenge will really get your pupils into blue sky thinking! Working as individuals or small teams of 2-5, students should design and construct an aircraft within a maximum weight limit and develop a launching device to propel it forwards to cover the greatest distance from the launch point. With marks for background research, innovative design development, prototyping, aesthetics and distance covered, the sky’s the limit with the AeroTech Challenge!

    The aims of the Challenge:

    • To design and build an aircraft with a maximum weight of 250g, to be launched by a launching device no more than 1 metre in height, width or length. The furthest distance travelled by the aircraft, unaided, will be measured in a straight line from the launch point
    • Encourage problem-solving, team work, creativity and resilience using a process of ‘design, build, test, repeat’
    • Support STEM learning into push and pull forces, gravity, air resistance, aerodynamics and material properties


    Eligible school year groups: Years 3-6.


    Entries accepted from: Individuals or teams of 2-5 students. Schools may submit a maximum of 3 entries for the Challenge. Teams may be mixed year group.

    Open to: Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Authority Schools, Academies and Private Schools within the circulation area of the Loughborough Echo or who are members of the Loughborough Learning Alliance. Home-educated children may also participate. See our Terms and Conditions.

  • British Science Association CREST Awards

    CREST Discovery Awards

    3M will pay for entries for the AeroTech Challenge to be submitted for a British Science Association CREST Discovery Award. See our Terms and Conditions. Please indicate your consent on the Entry Form.

Important Dates

Closing date for entries: 25 March 2020

Judging: 22, 23 and 24 April 2020 at 3M Charnwood Campus, 10 Bakewell Road, Loughborough, LE11 5RB. Please indicate your preferred judging date/time on the entry form.

Entries will be screened to ensure they meet the entry criteria. Students, accompanied by their teacher, will be invited to present their aircraft and launching device to the judges and give a presentation of up to ten minutes on their background research, STEM learning about aircraft design and factors affecting flight, materials selection, design experimentation, prototyping and construction process. The presentation can take any form (PowerPoint® slides, poster, video, a talk or combination) and should aim to build the students’ confidence, communication and presentation skills. The judges will ask questions about the aircraft, launching device and the students’ STEM learning. All members of a team should take part in the presentation.

The aircraft and launching device will be checked to ensure that (i) they only use materials from the Materials List (ii) the aircraft does not exceed the maximum weight limit (iii) the launching device does not exceed the maximum dimensions. The launching device will be positioned behind the launch line and the aircraft launched three times. The distance covered will be measured in centimetres by tape measure, in a straight line from the ’launch line’ to the nearest point of the aircraft. The longest distance will be used for allocation of marks.

Mark Scheme

Up to 30 marks for the distance covered by the aircraft

Up to 20 marks for STEM learning into aircraft design and factors affecting flight including forces, gravity and resistance

Up to 20 marks for design and construction including material experimentation, prototyping, design modifications and overcoming problems and challenges

Up to 15 marks for visual appearance/aesthetics of the aircraft

Up to 15 marks for the presentation

Total marks available = 100

The students’ year group will be taken into account when awarding marks.

Judges will select 4-6 finalists who will be invited to attend the 3M Young Innovators Challenge presentation evening at Charnwood Campus on 19 June 2020.

£750 of science equipment for school use plus a £50 gift voucher for the winning individual or team member. All finalists and their schools will receive a framed certificate.

All entrants will receive a certificate of entry and personalised feedback from the judges.
Curriculum links

Links to Science Curriculum (England)

Year 3

Forces and magnets

  • compare how things move on different surfaces

  • Year 5


  • explain that unsupported objects fall towards the Earth because of the force of gravity acting between the Earth and the falling object
  • identify the effects of air resistance, water resistance and friction, that act between moving surfaces
  • recognise that some mechanisms, including levers, pulleys and gears, allow a smaller force to have a greater effect

  • Links to Design and Technology Curriculum (England)

    Key stage 2

    When designing and making, pupils should be taught to:


  • generate, develop, model and communicate their ideas through discussion, annotated sketches, cross-sectional and exploded diagrams, prototypes, pattern pieces and computer-aided design

  • Make

  • select from and use a wider range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks [for example, cutting, shaping, joining and finishing], accurately
  • select from and use a wider range of materials and components, including construction materials, textiles and ingredients, according to their functional properties and aesthetic qualities

  • Technical knowledge

  • apply their understanding of how to strengthen, stiffen and reinforce more complex structures

  • Links to Mathematics Curriculum (England)

  • Measures of distance, mass and angle, scale drawing, 2D and 3D shapes

  • Important documents to download

    Please download these important documents for the AeroTech Challenge. Please save the entry form to your device and send as a file attachment to

    If you have any questions, please Get in Touch.
    Please see our Terms and Conditions.


    • Jennifer Glover

      Jennifer Glover

      Jennifer Glover is studying for a PhD at Loughborough University, researching jet engine noise reduction through sound proofing panels. Jennifer has a Masters’ degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a Diploma in Industrial Studies. She is a very active member of the Women’s Engineering Society on the Council, Young Members Board and the Student Liaison Officer. As a STEM Ambassador, Jennifer is passionate about encouraging all students into engineering; promoting a better understanding of what engineers do; and inclusivity for minorities, including women and those with dyslexia like herself.

    • Chris Bishop

      Chris Bishop

      Chris Bishop is a Principal Project Engineer at 3M. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1998 with a Masters’ degree in Engineering and has managed engineering projects for 3M ever since. A Chartered Engineer and STEM Ambassador, Chris enjoys delivering maths and engineering-based activities in primary schools, and lives in Loughborough with his wife and two young children.

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