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Student-Built Jet Engine Wins Flabob Science Fair

Combs and Swiss Pilots Soldier On, Surplus Makes Repairs

Anthony Mosallam
Anthony Mosallam shows off the turbine engine which took first place in the Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy Science Fair. The airport is home to EAA Chapter 1.

May 20, 2010 — A working turbine engine built by two high school students took top honors recently at the Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy’s annual science fair in Riverside, California. Anthony Mosallam and Jonathon Deming scrounged auto parts and an old leaf blower to assemble a loud - and fairly powerful - jet engine.

The turbine compressor came from a Buick Regal. The leaf blower provides the starting air. When the pressure valve indicates 10 psig, a propane valve is turned on. A battery-powered CD lighter, like the type found on most gas stovetops, ignites the propane.

With ignition, the engine spools up to operating speed and can be controlled by backing off or advancing the fuel. The spark is then disconnected, just like on the jets at nearby LAX.

They have not yet connected a nozzle, so the exhaust just comes out the back side of the compressor, but enough thrust is generated to push the engine and its relatively heavy stand across the floor. The students expect to continue working on it with hopes of someday refining a model that’s useable for light aircraft flight.

While building their turbine, the students learned MIG and TIG welding, and gained experience with other forms of machinery and tools. Both have expressed a desire to pursue careers in aviation.

Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy is a tuition-free, public charter high school and middle school (grades 7-12) located on Flabob Airport and operated by River Springs Charter School. It offers a broad liberal education, emphasizing science, mathematics, engineering and technology, and using aviation as a context, example and motivator. For more information visit www.Flabob.org.

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