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Science & Technology Series: Graduate Success

Wireless plane charging and vibrating wings inspire the future of flight

Students from City University London have reached the final stage of a prestigious aviation competition

by Nicola Ranson

An all-female team from City University London haveTeam beat tough competition to reach the final of a prestigious competition with their idea to wirelessly power planes during taxiing. Fly Your Ideas, a competition, organised by Airbus in partnership with UNESCO, challenges students to innovate for the future of aviation for the chance to win the top prize of €30,000. 

Comprised of three doctoral students from City,  Team Bolleboos is among 5 teams selected from more than 500 entries to reach the final round of the competition. As part of Team Multifun, City student Dhamotharan Veerasamy also reached the final round. Team Multifun hail from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA; Delft University of Technology; Netherlands and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India alongside City. Their idea involves harvesting energy from plane wing vibrations.

Judit Guimera Busquets, Evelien Van-Bokhorst and Isabella Fumarola from Team Bolleboos met while studying for a PHD in Aeronautics Engineering at City. Inspired by the charging systems of electric toothbrushes, they designed a wireless power system that transfers energy from the ground to the plane while taxiing. 

“This would mean that the aeroplane wouldn’t need to use the engines during taxiing resulting in a reduction in fuel burnt, less air pollution, a quieter airport and significant financial savings for airlines,” Isabella Fumarola said.

The five finalist teams will travel to Hamburg, Germany on Wednesday 27th May to make their case in front of a panel of industry experts. Isabella said: "Getting to the final is amazing and we are really excited about going to Hamburg to present our idea to the international jury. I still cannot believe we are among the finalists."

Judit Guimera Busquets said: “Our research at City focuses on aviation and we thought this competition would be a fun and interesting challenge. When working asBolleboos Sketch part of a team it’s important that you all get along and I think is one of the factors in our success so far. From the moment we met at the start of our PhD we all connected and are now really good friends. Although we have quite different personalities, they complement each other really well and we are all quite alike in the way we work.”

Team Bolleboos is the only all-female team to make it to the finals of Airbus. Although the team have never considered gender to be an issue when pursuing a science-related career, they feel more female role models are needed to challenge stereotypes.

Evelien said: “I decided to choose engineering because I was interested in the subject. However, there is a very stereotypical image of an engineer and in order to change this, more female role models would be needed. There are so many aspects to engineering, it’s all around us!”

Judit added: “I believe that the stereotypes society has established makes an impact on many girls who grow up thinking that STEM subjects are more for boys and are not encouraged to pursue this kind of subject. I think everyone, regardless of gender, should study what they like the most, independently whether the society thinks you should do.”

Congratulations to Team Bolleboos from @cityunilondon, selected as 1 of 5 @Airbus #FlyYourIdeas2015 finalists. More:
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Team Bolleboos Airbus Mentor, Ye-Y Tian said: “Team Bolleboos is a very dynamic all-female team with members from various academic backgrounds. The fact that the idea they came up with is not part of any of their majors, has really given them the opportunity to think outside of the box and be extra creative.“I found it very easy to work with the team and I am most impressed with their ability to understand and quantify the commercial value of this engineering idea. It was a brilliant experience with an outstanding team!”

Chris Atkin, Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at City said: 

All four students are undertaking research into aerodynamics at City, but their team proposals to Airbus focus on smart structures and innovative electrical systems. I am delighted to see our students showing a broad interest in the industry which their research supports. I'm sure you will join me in wishing them the best of luck for the show-down in Hamburg.

Dhamotharan Veerasamy from Team Multifun who is studying for a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering at City said: “Being in the finals is really exciting and we are simply astonished to have the chance to present our idea in front of the high flying jury. Our idea was inspired by our academic mentor, Professor Dineshkumar Harursampath (NMCAD Lab, IISc) who acted as a hub to unite all the team members for this project. Working as a virtual team means that we haven’t all met each other yet, so I am looking forward to personally meeting my own team at Hamburg for the finals.”

Charles Champion, Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering, said: “I congratulate the five teams for reaching the final of our Fly Your Ideas challenge. The competition as always has been incredibly tough and they can all be very proud to have got this far. What their ideas show us is that the next generation can bring fresh thinking to our industry and help shape the future of flight. That’s what Airbus Fly Your Ideas is all about."


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