Florida Tech Students Win First Place at the Annual University Airport Design Competition

First-place winners will present designs at the Airport Consultant Council’s Airport Technical Workshop

Two teams of Florida Tech students from Debbie Carstens’ spring Human Performance 1 graduate course were recognized for their entries at the annual University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs from the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program. The team of, from left, Tejas Rachur, Hope Erlwein, faculty advisor Debbie Carstens, and Nikhita Agasam, along with Alfa Ekele (not pictured). (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Two teams of Florida Tech students from Debbie Carstens’ spring Human Performance 1 graduate course were recognized for their entries at the annual University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs from the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program.

The projects are worked on during the semester-long course with specific class/lab activities dedicated to each project.

Now in its 16th year, the prestigious competition encourages students to design innovative and practical solutions to challenges at airports. Four first-place winners were chosen across the four technical challenge areas: Airport Environmental Interactions; Airport Operation and Maintenance; Runway Safety/Runway Incursions/Runway Excursions Including Aprons, Ramps, and Taxiways; and Airport Management and Planning.

The first-place winner in the Airport Environmental Interactions area was the Florida Tech team of Nikhita Agasam, Hope Erlwein, Alfa Ekele and Tejas Rachur, with Carstens serving as faculty advisor.

Their proposal, “Implementing Alternative Renewable Energy Sources for Ground-based Airport Operations,” introduced “a system that can obtain and convert low-cost degradable wastes into usable fuels for the powering of airport vehicles, the airport environment, and producing gas for the ground running of aircraft.”

Trish Hiatt, deputy director of the FAA’s Airport Safety and Standards Directorate, presented the award on July 20 at a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C.

The Florida Tech team of April Dabrowski, Cherrise Ficke, Jona Thomas, and Victoria Dominique Rosales Calo, with Carstens serving as faculty advisor, won Honorable Mention in the Airport Management and Planning category for its paper, “Ethereal.”

First-place winners students will present their designs at the Airport Consultant Council’s Airport Technical Workshop as a keynote luncheon presentation.

In addition, they will be given the opportunity to present their winning proposals at an industry professional conference or workshop in fall 2022. Winning teams receive $3,000 for first place and $500 for honorable mention.

The competition evaluators use nine areas to judge submissions, including literature review, safety risk assessment, overall quality of the design package, problem-solving approach and practicality, and feasibility of the proposed design.

Since 2018, Carstens and her student teams have now won first place awards three times and honorable mentions twice.

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