Runway grooved sign wins FAA award for Purdue students

(Photo: Student researchers created the Dual Image Grooved Sign to improve safety on airport runways. This prototype illustrates how it would be seen from three sides.)

Two aviation students have shown their continued ingenuity by placing in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Design Competition for Universities for the second time in three years.

Jin Young Kim and Keaton Aktay placed third this year in the Runway Safety, Runway Incursions, Runway Excursions category with their Dual Image Grooved Sign (DIGS) display. DIGS is an innovative way to display different information to pilots when viewed from either side. Being able to see different information depending on which side a plane is approaching from would increase pilot awareness of aircraft positions.

“For this year's competition, I had an idea for in-ground signs to give information to pilots on runways and taxiways that could be viewed from two different directions, enhancing safety,” Kim said. “I usually brought up new ideas and created visual aids and prototypes to help explain the initial concept.”

Aktay said that Kim was the original concept creator, but that they split the work evenly. He said that he specifically dealt with the project impact, financial assessment, and implementation of their research project.

“We learned valuable lessons in project management, teamwork and research from this competition.By holding each other accountable for deadlines for our parts of the project, we can now apply these experiences to working in large groups for projects in our professional lives,” Keaton said.

Kim and Aktay are one of several active student research teams in the Aviation Technology Department’s Hangar of the Future Research Laboratory.  Students working on Hangar of the Future projects explore and develop innovative solutions to real industry problems, integrating all segments of the aerospace industry to provide a safe and profitable future in the global aerospace market.

Tim Ropp, assistant professor of aviation technology and leader of the Hangar of the Future lab, was the advisor on the DIGS project.He helped the team with concept design questions.
“I knew the team's capabilities and attitude.These students really represent the spirit of NextGen and innovation we strive for in the College of Technology and especially within the Department of Aviation Technology. Jin and Keaton are classic examples of good researchers and industry problem solvers,” Ropp said.

The FAA competition included several steps. The team had to create an idea, research existing products and write research reports on their findings. They submitted this information to the FAA Competition's administrating agency, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, where it was reviewed by a panel of industry, FAA and academic reviewers who critique the ideas for feasibility, cost and relevance. They received research assistance and support on campus from Professors John Haddock and Jason Weiss in the School of Civil Engineering; Professors Stewart Schreckengast and Michael Suckow in the Department of Aviation Technology; and Purdue University Airport Manager Betty Stansbury.

The competition promotes university involvement in airport operations and infrastructure and challenges students to address issues relating to airports. Competitors come from universities across the United States.

Kim and Aktay were part of a three-person team that placed first in the Airport Management and Planning category of the 2010 FAA competition.

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