The National Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Design Competition for Universities draws some of the top aeronautical and aviation colleges and programs in the nation, yet, for the past three years, computer science students in Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science have come out on top.
The technical design competition invites undergraduate and graduate students to tackle airport issues related to airport operation and maintenance, runway safety/runway incursions, airport environmental interactions, and airport management and planning. It’s essentially a writing exercise in which students must develop a 70-page design proposal in only 14 weeks — while learning valuable lessons in management structure, team decision making and problem solving.
The students don’t have to build their designs, but they do have to explain them well. So, they’ve teamed up with industry professionals from the Greater Binghamton Airport (GBA) and McFarland-Johnson, Inc., a leading engineering firm headquartered in Binghamton, to get critical aviation-industry insight and engineering guidance.
And the 2009 winning design — installation of a radiant geothermal heating prototype in the GBA airfield apron (the area where passengers and cargo load) — has received funding.
The FAA Research Grant program has awarded $374,000 to the Southern Tier Economic Partnership (STEP), a countywide economic development organization — in collaboration with Binghamton University and other local organizations — to fund the first phase of a $1.4 million project at the airport.
“This project began as a classroom exercise and has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime partnership between the students of Binghamton University and a number of local government and economic development entities,” said William Ziegler ’76, associate professor of computer science. “For our students to see their project come to fruition as a construction project that could benefit the entire aviation industry is truly astounding, and I am certainly proud to be part of the experience.”