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LAES Students Travel to Seattle as Finalists in Boeing Innovation Challenge

Boeing Innovation Competition participants
Boeing Innovation Challenge participants 

In January, a group of students flew to Seattle as finalists in the Boeing Innovation Challenge. Their mission? To bring innovative design ideas to commercial flights.

Boeing, the world’s largest plane manufacturing company, invited Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) students Zach Cushing-Murray and Emma George and architecture student Chloe Regan to Seattle to pitch their project proposals to the Boeing team. While their design details are confidential, the students were able to share highlights from their experience designing and traveling to the Boeing headquarters.

The project proposal started as an assignment in LAES 302: Advanced Project-Based Learning in Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies. During the first week of class, students worked in groups to make designs for the competition.

“This project really highlights that special view and skill set that LAES brings to engineering problems,” said LAES co-director and computer science professor Michael Haungs. “It was a nationwide competition with tons of universities that even had more submissions than we did. It was really great to see that the Cal Poly team’s ideas made it to the next stage.”

The Innovation Challenge had three categories: Simplifying Commercial Airplanes, Creating Efficient, Adaptable, and Flexible Airplane Cabins, and Cross-Industry Aircraft Innovation. In Seattle, the students had the opportunity to work with Boeing subject matter experts to further develop and refine their design ideas. Working with Boeing professionals to enhance their proposals was one of Cushing-Murray’s most valuable takeaways from the experience.

“They’re all incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what they work on,” Cushing-Murray said.

The team also traveled out of the city to Everett, where they were given a tour of Boeing’s Everett factory, the world’s largest building by volume.

Cushing-Murray said his LAES major introduced him to this opportunity and helped him with his pitching skills. The LAES curriculum combines engineering studies with arts and humanities to prepare students for interdisciplinary projects like the Boeing student innovation project.

“My liberal arts concentration is philosophy, and I took a debate class that really helped me with presentation skills and making pitches during our project,” Cushing-Murray said.

Haungs said he plans to keep fostering a partnership between Boeing and the Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Department.

“Having that external customer was awesome,” Haungs said. “Hopefully we can work with them more in the future.”

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