Readers might recall that last month I wrote about the inaugural winners of our Secretary's RAISE Award (Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering). This competition was recommended by our Future of Aviation Advisory Committee to develop and expand education programs that support the aviation industry’s future needs. We hoped it would draw out extraordinary students who would develop innovative aerospace and aviation ideas, and it certainly did.
Miraj Rahematpura, Christopher Muckle, and Mario Chris of Middletown, Connecticut, won for developing the Falcon Tip. This adaptive winglet--named in honor of their high school mascot--promises to increase the fuel-efficiency of one of commercial aviation's workhorses, the Boeing 737.
Yesterday, the winners came to DOT to talk about their project to a roomful of senior DOT leaders. To say we were all impressed with the quality and real-world value of their work would be an understatement. But not only did they develop a highly-technical winglet, they were able to explain their work with exceptional clarity and maturity, so that I in turn could explain it to Fast Lane readers.
Miraj, Chris, and Mario reasoned that the fixed angle was great for saving fuel during cruising, but changing the winglet's angle during a plane's ascent and descent could produce even further reductions in drag and further fuel savings. That would require an adaptive winglet that could change angles in flight, and that's what they set about developing.
After many design and testing cycles, they had a winglet capable of being moved without adding too much extra weight or mechanical complication to the 737's wing. Computer modeling indicated that the team's Falcon Tip could reduce the amount of jet fuel consumed by an astonishing 10 percent. That's a net saving of seven percent over the fixed winglet approach currently used in commercial aviation's fleet of 737s.
And that's exactly what the RAISE Award wants to see, students across America engaging in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to solve real world challenges.
I want to congratulate Miraj, Chris, and Mario as well as their teacher, Michael Humphreys of Middletown's Xavier High School--go Falcons!--for their very promising work. I also want to thank all of the students who submitted their innovations this year, and remind them that it's not too early to begin thinking about next year's competition.