356 teams from 89 countries submitted their innovate ideas to the Airbus Fly Your Ideas Competition. The field was narrowed to 50 teams and only one team from the United States remained, the CyFly Team from Iowa State University.
That team is comprised of Aerospace Engineering majors Koki Tomoeda, Jack Stanton, Tho Ton, and Lechen Wang.
Airbus, one of the largest aircraft manufactures in the world, asked students to submit their innovative ideas to better the future of air travel. The ideas could be solutions for ‘Now’ or innovations for the ‘Future.’
After much debate about which path to follow, the group settled on developing a practical solution for a current problem.
“The biggest debate was whether to have an easily implementable idea or to create a plan for the future,” Tomoeda said. “In the end, we decided to go with an idea engineers could work on right away and could be implemented into the industry. We wanted an idea that was usable.”
CyFly’s idea is to have foldable aisle seats that tuck away to widen the aisle as the plane is being boarded and deplaned. With their idea, the foldable seats also allow for more storage.
“The seats fold back so that passengers can put their carry-on luggage under their seat,” Tomoeda explained. “This way, overhead bins won’t be filling up which can cause delays. After the luggage is beneath the seat, the seat folds back over top for take-off.”
Connections within the industry
The team from Iowa State has been working with Assistant Professor Peng Wei, to formulate their ideas and develop a plan.
“With his experience in commercial aviation,” Tomoeda said, “Dr. Wei was able to give us some insight into the thinking process of the judging panel and determine what data we should focus on. When he tells people that we are the only team left in the United States, they are eager to help out.”
“I still have a few airline operation connections and was able to put the team in touch with people from the industry,” Dr. Wei said. “A former colleague of mine manages the boarding process for an airline and he explained his methods and what software he uses to analyze boarding times.”
The team is hoping to build off of the success of an Iowa State team that finished second in a nation-wide Airbus competition in May of 2016. That effort was led by Andrew Gumpert ’16, who currently works as a Design Engineer for Airbus in Mobile, Alabama.
In addition to being the only team from the United States selected in the top 50, the Iowa State team is also comprised of undergraduate students in a competition that is open to master’s and PhD students.
“I think our passion can win it,” Tomoeda said. What we have that is a real advantage is our diverse perspective. We are very excited; we are team USA!”
The next step
The first round of the contest was the idea stage, where teams submitted their idea and explained how it could benefit air travel. The second round will involve the team designing a basic prototype, as well running a simulation that will examine boarding time using the new seats.
“The team will create a video as well as a computer program to show a simulation of the boarding and deplaning process,” Dr. Wei said. “They will build two computer programs, one to look at the boarding process and one to examine the g-forces on the seats during take-off.”
After the second round ends, five teams will be selected to fly to Toulous, France to present their idea at the Airbus world headquarters where a prize of €30,000 awaits the winner.
“We realize that with our idea in this competition, we could provide a solution to a problem,” Tomoeda said. “Also, we really like planes.”