Three Teams Make the Final Cut in Inaugural FirePoint C3 Competition

The FirePoint Innovations Center at Wichita State University today announced the final three teams have been selected in the first-ever FirePoint C3 Challenge. With a combined $35,000 in funding to bring their concepts to life, the three teams will now begin putting their heads—and designs—together, collaborating to build the U.S. Army’s next-generation unmanned aerial vehicle concept (UAV). 

A panel of judges has selected the Buhler High School Science Club from Wichita, Pistol Pete’s Propulsion Posse from Oklahoma State University and Team Vol Air from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to proceed in the competition. Each brings a unique approach to lift, energy and airframe design, forming the critical components of any functional UAV: 

  • Buhler’s dirigible concept generates lift by extracting hydrogen from the atmosphere during flight, which it can do even in conditions far more arid than the Sahara Desert, making it a clean, efficient, all-terrain and all-weather lift solution. 
  • Pistol Pete’s turboelectric power system combines battery power with electric power produced from a gas turbine coupled to an electric generator. The two distinct power sources offer an array of choices that can be configured to complete a variety of missions.  
  • The Vol Air airframe is a 3D-printed reinforced structure that’s highly durable, yet adaptable to virtually any shape.  They also utilize compression overmolding to enhance the material properties of the original structure with thin fiber composite sheets. 

“We are extremely pleased with the caliber of design, engineering and creativity we’ve seen in these submissions,” said Steve Cyrus, Manager of Technology Collaborations with FirePoint. “Not only were we somewhat surprised to see a high school team performing at this level, but it’s also fascinating how the teams’ concepts already complement one another. We’re very excited to see what they come up with once they all get together.”  

The three teams will now begin integrating their designs through remote collaboration using the Dassault Systemes platform, as well as through a series of virtual and in-person meet ups for project coordination. The first workshop kicks off the collaboration April 2 during which teams will introduce their subsystems in detail to one another.  

After the workshop, the teams will begin full buildout of their design concepts for prototyping. Teams can pull from the $35,000 funding to secure the necessary equipment, supplies and workspace to complete their concepts, as well as invest in growing their programs beyond the competition. 

“The purpose of the C3 Challenge is to cultivate the next generation of technology and talent,” Cyrus said. “This funding will not only help bring these projects to fruition, but also allows us to invest in these programs to build a pipeline of engineering and design talent to meet the Army and the aviation industry’s future workforce needs.” 

Following a couple of months of remote collaboration, the teams will once again assemble this summer at America Makes in Youngstown, OH for the next in-person meetup. 

The C3 Challenge is sponsored by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC), with support from Dassault Systemes and America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.  

“U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center provides increased responsiveness to the nation’s Warfighters through aviation and missile capabilities and life cycle engineering solutions,” said Cyrus. 

To learn more about the C3 Challenge, visit

About FirePoint 

FirePoint is a partnership between Wichita State University and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC) that accelerates joint technology development, transfer and commercialization among CCDC, universities, industry and other government organizations. FirePoint aims to support the educational, commercial and workforce development necessary to drive innovation and collaboration across the key Army modernization priorities.  The C3 Challenge, along with other FirePoint initiatives, support collaboration, partnering, and STEM workforce development to ensure modern Army combat readiness and overmatch in the multi-domain battlespace.

For more information, visit 

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