Three teams of first-year students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering won this year’s Boeing Freshman Design Challenge, held earlier this spring.
The victors represented a diverse array of engineering disciplines, including chemical, civil, and computer engineering students, in addition to the traditional aerospace engineering disciplines.
Coming in first place was Team N-PAC, which included Nahima Yasuda, Carl Kohnke, Alysha Kanjiyani and Pono Casey. For their efforts, Team N-PAC received a Boeing 787 Dreamliner model airplane.
“My biggest takeaway from this challenge was the power of collaboration. I couldn’t have gotten the first place without the help of my teammates who all contributed different insights from their varying backgrounds,” Yasuda said.
Team Astrotecs, which included Kate McQuarrie, Ethan Fulcher, Brendyn Byrn and Griffin MacRae, came in second. In third was Team Flying Trojans, which included Jude Sorkin, Parker Weiss, Crystal Wu and Cinthia Sanches Alvarado. Each member from the second and third place teams received Boeing apparel and accessories. Additionally, all participants received Starbuck gift cards for their hard work.
Every year, engineers and executives from Boeing come to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and probe freshmen to design a solution to a real-world problem that Boeing faces to stimulate their interest in aerospace engineering. The students then have an hour to devise and present their solutions to Boeing representatives and USC Viterbi alumni.
To maintain confidentiality with the hopes of recycling this year’s challenge at other universities, Boeing chose not to disclose the details of the challenge nor the winning designs.
Because of the reduction in costs from hosting the event virtually, funds that would have gone toward parking passes and catering were allocated toward more prizes. For the first time, the Boeing Freshman Design Challenge recognized first, second, and third place winners rather than a single winning team.
Perhaps the challenge for this year’s competition, as it has been for many recent events, was moving the competition online. Rather than replicate the design challenge virtually, USC Viterbi hoped to restructure the program to be more conducive to virtual collaboration, Young explained. Accordingly, the typically one day, three hour in-person event was split into two events over two days on Zoom.
The first event, hosted Thursday, Feb. 25, was an info session where students were briefed on the premise of the challenge. At the end, students registered for the challenge either as teams or individually to be matched to a team.
The second part of the design challenge took place on Thursday, March 4, where teams designed their solutions in private breakout rooms, as opposed to the 300-seat Seeley G. Mudd Building lecture hall — which, again, was made possible by the new virtual format. Boeing engineers floated around breakout rooms answering questions and probing teams to think even bigger with their solutions.
“The event was well structured for a virtual environment,” said Jude Sorkin, a member of Team Flying Trojans. “As a freshman, it was a relief to meet a few new faces outside of Zoom classes. I’m eager to participate in events like this in the future.”