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Challenge Streams

In addition to one overall $10,000 winner for best overall project, there will be a $1,000 prize for the winning group in each of the challenge streams below.

Challenge 1: Create an Airport of the Future-(sponsored by Piedmont)

  1. Air traffic doubles every 15 years and more people in more locations need to be globally connected. There are many elements that make up the airport infrastructure, some of which include security, operation /maintenance, runway safety (incursions/excursions) and impacts to the environment.

The challenge: Create an airport of the future to be more efficient, safer, and/or better for the environment

  • While most major airports have a perimeter fencing, CCTV, regular police patrolling capabilities and methods of keeping intruders off of airport property (Intruders can and may include, human beings, and animal wild life), general aviation airports do not have any perimeter fencing, any significant means of monitoring the airplane movements of takeoffs and landings. Your team may consider a method and system of perimeter security for your new airport using any technological means necessary to keep off intruders, a system of monitoring take off and landings.  Your program or solution may include methods of detecting, deterring any threat that may affect airport security. 


  • The day-to-day operation and maintenance of an airport involves many tasks. Airport operators must handle both routine matters and unusual circumstances. Their

responsibilities include keeping records; hiring and training personnel; maintaining pavement; maintaining markings, signs, and lighting; providing snow and ice

control, if applicable; managing emergency preparedness; overseeing handling of hazardous materials, including jet fuel; conducting airport self-inspections; overseeing

procedures for operation of vehicles on the airfield; providing obstruction lighting; protecting navigational aids; protecting public safety; dealing with wildlife control;

and overseeing construction projects.

  • Runway Safety/Runway Incursions/Runway Excursions

You may want to consider:

  • Methods for improving runway safety during airport

construction and reconstruction.

  • Optimizing safety through improvements to and

redesign of existing runways and taxi ways.

  • Safety considerations for drones operating in or near the

airport environment—issues and constraints as well

as benefits and costs.

  • Innovative concepts for virtual/remote towers at

non-towered airports.

  • Optimizing application of NextGen technology to improve

runway safety in particular and airport safety in general.

  • Airport Environmental Interactions

All airport operations must be carried out with consideration for how the environment could be adversely affected.

  • Airport environmental concerns may include many things: noise;
  • land use;
  • social impacts;
  • air quality;
  • endangered and threatened species;
  • energy supply and natural resources;
  • alternative energy sources;
  • light emissions;
  • solid waste impacts;
  • construction impacts.
  • Issue of aircraft mechanics (airframe and powerplant, A&P) shortage; how do we, as an industry, continue to appeal to high school (and middle school) students with baby boomers retiring?A recent Boeing study indicated that there will be a shortage of 180,000 A&P mechanics in North America alone over the next 20 years.How does the industry remedy this issue?How do federal, state, and local government entities play a continued role in turning the tide, along with higher education, airports, and advocacy groups like AAAE and the Ohio Aviation Association?

Challenge 2: Protection from Hail

  1. Aircraft all over the world are exposed to severe weather and one of the more damaging is hail impacts on wings. The movable wing parts (slats, flaps, etc.), engine cowls and panels are particularly fragile. Numerous aircraft have been struck by hail and at times have required a significant amount of rework which affects aircraft operations, incurs significant cost, and decreases operational efficiency. With an average of one damaging hailstorm per year, it becomes urgent to find an innovative solution to protect these aircraft, especially since the rate of hailstorms are increasing due to global warming.

Currently, one solution used to protect the wings takes as much as 3hrs, requires too many resources, and has safety risks as it involves humans exposed to the wind & rain.

The challenge: develop an easier and quicker means to protect the aircraft wings during a hailstorm.

There should be NO impact on activities and movement around the aircraft.

Challenge 3: Improving the Air Traveler Experience-(sponsored by Design Innovation)

Every day around the world, 8 million people board planes as passengers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects 7.2 billion passengers to travel in 2035, a near doubling of the 3.8 billion air travelers in 2016. Half of the world's population fly somewhere annually! Most of us have flown for business, pleasure, or necessity and air travel is the safest mode of transportation you will use when getting from "point A" to "point B." Imagine how a simple life-changing redesign of the air passenger's travel experience would impact half the world's population each year! Airlines of the future want innovation from the moment you leave your house to arriving at an assigned gate.How can that experience become as seamless as possible for the millennial, baby boomer, generation x’er?


The Challenge: Improve the Air Traveler Experience

Kent State University's Design Innovation Group is sponsoring a broad challenge to all SkyHack-Design Challenge participants to consider addressing the issue of improving the air traveler experience. This challenge focuses on the air traveler's user experience and seeks innovative way to improve that experience.

Categories to consider may include but are not limited to:

  • Technology: booking a flight to connecting online while flying
  • Safety:From security to traveling with “comfort” animals to making an emergency landing
  • Booking/Check-in: app-based booking systems to self-serve kiosks
  • Comfort: from air temperature to airplane seats, tray tables, aisle width….
  • Universal Design:creating an environment that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability
  • Fear of flying (aviophobia): May be related to claustrophobia, germaphobia, acrophobia, or agoraphobia
  • Luggage handling: checking/claiming bags to storing in overhead compartments
  • Entertainment: from reading lights to inflight entertainment systems
  • Boarding/De-Boarding:Seat assignment, jet bridge to boarding methods
  • Time: getting to gate, on-time departures and arrivals, to making connecting flights
  • Wayfinding to shopping to eating to waiting to environment

Challenge 4: Destructive Dorian - Restoring Connectivity

We are a world where everything is connected. However, for now, “things” are mostly connected in homes, factories and urban environments. As soon as you venture into the wild (nature, rural environments, in the sky, at sea, etc.) network connectivity lacks.

On August 28, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall, pounding the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. On Sunday, September 1, Dorian was still wreaking havoc, striking the Bahamas, tearing down power lines and ripping off roofs. Because of its maximum sustained winds, Dorian tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore.

The widespread communications and power outages that followed illustrate the fragility of United States’ communications infrastructure when attacked by the extreme forces of nature.

The Challenge: As the challenge title suggests, it is time to show Mother Nature humankind’s capacity to be prepared so that we are not critically incapacitated or, at the very least, we quickly recover from the effects of these disasters on our communication infrastructure.

a) Develop novel airborne or space-based platform for temporarily (or permanently) restoring communication and connectivity in remote areas following a natural disaster (hurricane, flood, earthquake, etc.). What types of air/space platforms would you develop?How would they be constructed?What is the means of platform propulsion?How do the platforms provide power or connectivity to the ground?How would they store energy?What type of ground infrastructure improvements would be required to connect to these platforms?What type of deployment timeline would these systems require?How would they be deployed to isolated disaster areas?How would these platforms achieve the required range or endurance for persistent connectivity?What type of quantitative metrics would indicate success or failure of the system?


The proposed solution must contain sky-based or space-based platforms, but other land-based or sea-based assets may be included as elements of a larger system.

Proposed solutions should address the following: (1) platform-specific design to include identification of the critical technologies for air/space-based operations, (2) system-level integration into current emergency response systems, (3) risks, and (4) deployment and recovery.


b) Use an electronic chip/microcontroller that is compatible with terrestrial networks (cellular etc.) and/or space networks (via satellite) as a communication device if the network has been knocked out by the storm. The goal is that our “things” can be connected anywhere, anytime. What type of product could the chip/microcontroller be embedded in/connected to and how do you use it? What does it do? How does it help? How is it powered?


c) Use autonomous vehicles to speed the reestablishment of power to the electric grid. At least one part of your project should contain an air based autonomous vehicle.


Challenge 5: The Deans’ Challenge: Making flying healthier for the Air Traveler

The Challenge: develop anything new that will decrease the spreading of germs on an airplane

Areas to consider may include but are not limited to:

  • New/different Materials
  • New filters/filtering techniques
  • New aircraft design that promotes a germ-free environment
  • New procedures that passengers are required to follow to decrease spreading of germs
  • Germ detection systems/sensors and
  • Cost analysis, communication, education
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