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University students win innovative airport design awards

Five teams of students won first place recognition in the fifteenth annual University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs, a contest that encourages them to design innovative and practical solutions to challenges at airports.

The annual University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs encourages university students to design innovative and practical solutions to challenges at airports. Stock image courtesy of NASA / Lillian Gipson and Kyle Jenkins.

Winning entries were chosen for research and suggestions to improve airport environments in four categories: runway safety or incursions, airport environmental interactions, airport operation and maintenance, and airport management and planning.

The competition required that students work with a faculty adviser and that they reach out to airport operators and industry experts for advice and to assess the practicality of their proposals. 

A team of undergraduate students from Michigan Technological University’s civil and environmental engineering department earned first place in the runway safety or incursions challenge for the proposal Graphical NOTAM Interface for Improving Efficiency of Reporting NOTAM Information. The group developed an electronic flight bag user interface that provides graphical representations of notams with information that improves how pilots receive changes in airport weather conditions.

Graduate students from the Florida Institute of Technology’s college of aeronautics won first place in the airport environmental interactions category for the FlyKey proposal, a design that relies on technology to make a traveler’s experience convenient and safe.

A team of undergraduate and graduate students from San Jose State University’s aviation and technology department won first place in the airport operation and maintenance category for the proposal Conceptual Design of Vertiport and UAM Corridor, a schematic design of a vertiport that increased accessibility and operational efficiency within a relatively small footprint.

An undergraduate group from the the University of California, Berkeley’s civil and environmental engineering department was awarded a tie for first place in the airport management and planning category for the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Traffic Management Concept on Airfields: Increasing Airport Capacity and Reducing Passenger Delay proposal. “The design proposal offered outside-of-the-box thinking to help solve the issue of airfield congestion utilizing HOV methods,” the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program said in a news release.

Undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Utah’s civil and environmental engineering department were also recognized as first-place winners in the airport management and planning category for the Automatic Independent Video-based Air Traffic Surveillance System (AIVATS) proposal. Judges said the students “presented a much needed and innovative design for an automatic system that would monitor air traffic at non-towered airports.”

Volunteer panels composed of airport industry and academic practitioners and FAA representatives selected the winning submissions from 63 student teams. Winning teams received $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, $1,000 for third place, and $500 for honorable mentions. First-place winners will receive their awards and present their work during a virtual awards ceremony on August 4.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Content Producer
AOPA Media Content Producer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Awards and Records, Aviation Education Programs

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