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Shock the World Campaign


Airbus and Wichita State grow their partnership with a competition for aspiring engineers

John See
Suresh Keshavanarayana, right, an associate professor in aerospace engineering, helps WSU students Hooman Shahverdi, left, and Cameron George, center, with a wing-box project.
     When Airbus decided last year to move its Wichita engineering center to the Innovation Campus at Wichita State University, both partners hoped WSU students would be among the beneficiaries of their growing synergy.

     That hope is becoming a reality. Airbus recently agreed to invest $85,000 as the exclusive sponsor of the Airbus Wing-box Competition, an event in which College of Engineering students design and build airplane wings based on specifications assigned to each of their teams.

     “Our students are going to go out and build real airplanes, so we make sure they know what they’re doing,” says Suresh Keshavanarayana, an associate professor in aerospace engineering. “We have to teach them not only how to design on paper, but also to actually build their design.”

     For the past two years, the Wing-box Competition has been limited to students in Keshavanarayana’s Flight Structures class, and to those students who have already taken the class. But the Airbus Wing-box Competition will have two additional categories — one for Wichita-area high school students and another for the general public and WSU graduate students.

     Airbus engineers will help WSU faculty administer the competition, including judging it, and they will mentor and assist all participants. The first competition will begin this fall, concluding in the spring.

     “What I’m most excited about is the mentoring arrangements with Airbus engineers,” Keshavanarayana says. “The students will be more excited about this project because a real aerospace business is involved. They will get feedback from the industry on what works in the real world.”

     Additionally, Airbus’ financial support of the contest will result in prize money being awarded, he said. The exact amount hasn’t been determined yet but Keshavanarayana says it will be significant.

     Airbus’ participation brings its own rewards for the company, says John O’Leary, vice president for Airbus Americas Engineering.

     “One of Airbus’ strategic goals is to help guarantee the future of aerospace by getting youth involved in science, technology, engineering and math subjects,” O’Leary says. “We already support various programs in Wichita and around the world. With this competition, we are able to further our already-successful partnership with WSU’s College of Engineering and offer another opportunity for learning at the college and high-school levels.”