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Propelled by passion

A team from SRM University, Chennai, is one of the five groups to have been shortlisted among 6000 students from 82 countries for the Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas Challenge final.

education Updated: May 22, 2013 10:45 IST
Jeevan Prakash Sharma

At a time when aerospace science is struggling to find a solution to reduce aircraft propulsion noise, a group of students from Chennai-based SRM University have come up with an innovative answer to the problem. The students - Michael Thomas, Anita Mohil, and their team leader Balakrishnan Solaraju Murali - all studying for their bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering at the university, have spent months studying the jet exhaust shape modification that would pave the way for noise reduction in aircrafts.


Even at a proposal stage their innovation has earned them an international recognition. They have been shortlisted for Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas Challenge final to be held at Airbus' headquarters in Toulouse, France on June 12, 2013. The three students along with their academic mentor Sakthivel Kasinathan, known as Team Avas (Sanskrit for protection), will now travel to France to present their ideas in front of a jury from Airbus and industry experts.

The winners will be announced at an exclusive ceremony at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris on June 14, 2013. The winning team will receive a prize of €30,000 and the runners-up €15,000. UNESCO has given its patronage to the global competition which challenges students worldwide to develop innovative ideas for a more sustainable aviation industry in the future.

“We are the only team from India whose concept has impressed the panelists from Airbus. The other four teams that have been shortlisted are from Australia, Brazil, Italy and Malaysia. It was not an easy competition as 618 teams totaling over 6,000 students from 82 countries had submitted their proposals,” says Anita Mohil, one of the team members.

The proposals had to cover one of the six themes - energy, efficiency, affordable growth, traffic growth, passenger experience and community friendliness, identified by Airbus as the key 21st century challenges for a greener aviation industry. “We chose energy as our theme to innovate because energy conservation is very important today. In our concept we have proposed use of intelligent materials (shape memory alloys) for jet exhaust shape modification. These alloys are energised by harvested electricity generated by advanced thermoelectric materials using engine heat source. This will reduce 6 to 7% of propulsion noise that today’s aircrafts produce. It’s quite a feasible model and there is scope for further improvisation,” says Balakrishnan Solaraju Murali, who led the team of students.

Team Avas say that the initial few months were quite challenging as their concept involved expert inputs from other disciplines of science such as electronics, electrical, mechanical sciences etc. “We held several sittings with our professors from other science disciplines before we arrived at a final conclusion. To have an idea is not tough but to translate it into reality is where one’s skills are put to a real test. We are confident that we will win the final,” says Michael Thomas, another team member.

The other teams that are in the competition include team CLiMA from Australia which is developing an aircraft fuelled by a blend of sustainably-produced liquefied biomethane and liquefied natural gas (Bio-LNG); team Levar from Brazil that is working on a luggage loading and unloading system; team Flybrid from Italy that is working on an electric/turboprop combination for hybrid propulsion in regional aircraft and team Embarker from Malaysia that is developing a self-sustaining aircraft cabin concept.

“The entries were assessed by experienced Airbus engineers who were extremely impressed by the quality of work. These talented students from around the world represent the future of our industry,” says Charles Champion, Airbus’ executive vice president, Engineering and Fly Your Ideas Patron.

Team: 3 members

Background: Aerospace Engineering

Focus Area: To find a solution to reduce aircraft propulsion noise

Outcome/impact: Shortlisted for Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas Challenge final

What next: More projects in aerospace engineering for energy conservation

‘I made them focus on relevant issues’

Sakthivel Kasinathan, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at SRM University, has played the role of an academic mentor for the team Avas. He has helped the students understand what might be expected of them in a competition like Airbus FYI. He’s conveyed to the students that they should focus on both the present scenario of the aerospace industry, while being able to present it coherently simple. "As far as my suggestions to them are concerned, I insist that they continue to find origins of issues faced by current aviation industry like energy and environment, while at the same time using what they learnt in their curriculum to offer solutions to such problems," says he.

According to Kasinathan, evens like FYI contest provides an opportunity to the students to think out of the box and learn what makes the difference between winning and losing.“We should have more and more such event which would benefit both the students as well as the industry,” he says

Five facts at your fingertips

1. Anout SRM University: Sri Ramaswamy Memorial University in Chennai is one of the top ranking universities in India with 33,044 students and 2358 faculty across all campuses, offering a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programmes in engineering, management, medicine and health sciences, and science and humanities

2. Flagship programmes: SRM University offers undergraduate programmes in engineering and technology, medicine and health sciences, science and humanities; postgraduates programmes in engineering and technology, management, medicine and health sciences, science and humanities and PhD

3. Placements: It has nearly 100% placement of registered students in all the top companies such as TCS, Wipro, Cognizant, Infosys, Siemens and others. Over 60 top executives from leading corporates constantly interact with faculty and students to give a boost to the industry-academia link. SRM was accredited by NAAC with ‘A’ Grade this year

4. Chennai: It is the capital of Tamil Nadu
It’s a major educational centre in South India
It is also known as the cultural capital of South India
It’s famous for Marina Beach, Kapaleeswarar temple
It’s also referred to as the gateway to South India

5. Admissions: There are different admission criteria for different courses. As far as engineering is concerned, the admission is purely on the basis of performance in the entrance examination conducted by SRM University. Candidates short-listed in the entrance examination are called for counselling