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The Future of Aviation, According to 4 Brilliant High School Students

Published August 29, 2019

The future of aviation

When you think about the teams of engineers working to improve the aviation experience, you probably don’t immediately conjure up a team of teens.

But four students hailing from all over the world worked together through an online platform—never in the same room together—and came up with a new vision for the future of aviation. They were participating in United Technologies’ (UTC) Aerospace Challenge. Rachel Cox, 17, from Macclesfield, United Kingdom; Mohamed Dein, 18, from Cairo, Egypt; Harshita Singh Chauhan, 16, from Singapore; and Guilherme Zandamela, 16, from Maputo, Mozambique named their team “The Future of Aviation” and their project won them the grand prize.

“Our solution will change aviation by combining efficiency, greenness, customer experience, and profitability," said Zandamela. "The aircraft we’ve designed is an attractive investment for manufacturers and/or airlines, while being less harmful to the environment and also more comfortable for passengers.”

The students modified the design of current airplanes to increase fuel-efficiency, using low-density materials and lighter seats. They used Bessel beams to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen in order to power the aircraft, which is a more environmentally sustainable approach than today’s jet fuel. The team also redesigned the seating layout, giving customers more legroom, and incorporated a wider central aisle that would allow passengers to evacuate two abreast during an emergency, as opposed to the single-file evacuation process that is currently used. The final part of their solution included an app that would allow customers to input their allergies, food preferences, and entertainment choices, so that flight attendants could better meet their needs.


“Our solution will change aviation by combining efficiency, greenness, customer experience, and profitability."

— Guilherme Zandamela


The design of this imagined airliner would increase passenger capacity by 53%, thus increasing profits.

The “Future of Aviation” team project won them the grand prize of $7,500 and an all-expense-paid trip to New York City to attend the New York Academy of Sciences’ Global STEM Alliance Summit.

Here, in their own words, the students share their experiences with this exciting Challenge:

Rachel Cox, 17, Macclesfield, UK

“I’m interested in aerospace engineering [so] I thought this would be the perfect project to give me insight into problems aerospace engineers face. I’m also conscious that plane travel needs to become more environmentally friendly—I wanted to show people how this can be achieved. We found ways to power the plane without using lots of fossil fuel, which will help to reduce the number of fossil fuels the world uses.”

Mohamed Dein, 18, Cairo, Egypt

“I don't have much experience in aviation, but I have experience in aerodynamics from learning about rockets and space shuttles. I believe our solution will make an impact because it solves several flaws in airplane design, and it will also be more comfortable for passengers.”

Harshita Singh Chauhan, 16, Singapore

“Our solution is multifaceted, trying to achieve a delicate balance between cutting costs while making the journey more comfortable for passengers, as well as [using] sustainable fuels to reduce the impact on the environment. The challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to put my skills to use, and I got insight into physics concepts that I would not have learned in school.”

Guilherme Zandamela, 16, Maputo, Mozambique

“I joined this challenge because I thought it would be fun to solve a problem by brainstorming ideas and figuring out how to implement them. Our solution is impactful because it will spark further thought and ideas—it has the potential to be further improved, to improve airplane efficiency and sustainability while providing customers with a better experience.”

Check out the other Challenge teams that made the finals here.

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