Students bring fresh perspectives to industry challenges

Competition brings new thinking to industry challenges

February 12, 2019 in Our Commitment

The winning entry in the first Boeing Innovation Challenge for students outlined a proposal for an application of artificial intelligence in flight decks. Students from University of Washington, Cornell University and Georgia Tech teamed to create the concept that would provide pilots with an integrated, automated and intelligent personal assistant to help with situational awareness and decision-making.

The Innovation Challenge asked engineering majors to propose new solutions for real-world aviation challenges.

“Whenever you apply to something like this, you never know who the competition is or where you’ll rank,” said Julie Mills, a human-centered design major at the University of Washington. “I chose to apply, and we spent a lot of hours thinking about ‘How do we address a market and problem space for customer experience solutions?’”

In the first round of the competition, the students were asked to propose a solution that would enhance the passenger experience, improve operational safety and efficiency or introduce value-added disruptive mobility.

“These students are smart, passionate and bring a great energy to their work,” said Kourosh Hadi, an Engineering director in Commercial Airplanes’ Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development team. “Their solutions were innovative and intuitive. I was impressed with how quickly they took on new ideas, worked with people they had never met before and turned out meaningful results.”

About a dozen teams, including more than 40 winners from the first round, received a trip to the Puget Sound in late January for the final round of competition.

In that round, ideas were narrowed to the top eight. Students whose ideas were not selected then chose which team to participate on to further refine the ideas and pitch them to Commercial Airplanes Engineering leaders. Teams were encouraged to include students from each of the represented schools.

“I think it’s pretty interesting that Boeing is implementing this kind of thing,” said Steav Kim, a Cornell University fine arts major. “I really appreciated the feedback and honesty. I don’t think there’s a lot of internet searches for that kind of conversation.”

Hadi added: “There is a pipeline of skilled engineers out there, but there is a real competition to attract them. We are working to engage with these students early in their academic career so we can help them see that Boeing is the place they want to build careers.”

Loretta Gunter and Davis Wahlman