Both EAA and GFCA (actually, the piloting community in general) is becoming grayer each year. While we do see new, young professionals join the ranks on a pretty regular basis, look around you at the airport and you're likely to see an average age somewhere in the mid-60s. There are a lot of reasons for this, but when you bring teenagers into the room not only bring the average down considerably, it also changes the energy in very positive ways. That's one of the reasons the annual Young Eagles' events are so popular with the EAA group; it's invigorating to be around all that youthful energy and enthusiasm.
We had a similar experience at the June EAA chapter meeting when we were joined by four rising high school freshmen who, as an after school group, competed in the Tech Museum of San Jose's Flight Challenge this year along with over 100 other teams in their age level. Benji Wu, Dabney Park, Ray Kwei and Ethan Ott put together a presentation that was engaging, informative, interesting and inspiring, with slides, photos, videos, samples of their work (which they passed around), and a well-coordinated and almost professional-level talk by each team member. In short, this was NOT your father's powerpoint.
They showed how they started out with no knowledge of aerodynamics or aircraft (or even model) design, how they sought out information, designed and built prototypes out of cardboard initially, taught themselves about weight and balance through trial and error and strict application of the scientific method. They had access to a laser cutter at their school, so they learned how to create designs using CAD software (no small task by itself!), which enabled them to mass-produce parts for the many individual models they built. The most interesting thing they talked about was how this project motivated them. They each told how they convinced their art teacher (this was an after-school, non-credit program) to allow them to work on their designs in art class, and how they would spend their holidays and spring breaks working twelve hours a day on the project. Ray said that he felt guilty if he went home while it was still daylight, and Dabney noted that their build sessions were filled with music, movies in the background, and lots of laughter.
It’s not a stretch to say that we were all very impressed, not just with their interest in aeronautical design and building, but more with their focus and willingness to throw themselves headfirst into the project, and for having the curiosity to doggedly pursue solutions to their challenges.