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Psychology Graduate Students Win Safety Award

The goal of the $2500. prize was to challenge students to focus on ways to improve the safety of the nation’s airports through three challenge areas: Airport Operation and Maintenance, Runway Safety/Runway Incursions, and Airport Environmental Interactions.

By Stephanie R. Johnson

Congratulations to a team of psychology students from George Mason University who recently won a $2500 prize from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-sponsored Airport Design Competition for Universities. This was the first year of this design competition. Its goal was to challenge students to focus on ways to improve the safety of the nation’s airports through three challenge areas: Airport Operation and Maintenance, Runway Safety/Runway Incursions, and Airport Environmental Interactions.

FAA personnel and members of partnering organizations (American Association of Airport Executives, Airport Consultants Council, Airports Council International--North America and National Association of State Aviation Officials) served as resources to design teams. The George Mason team was able to beat out several other teams that consisted of graduate students in engineering programs.

Under the direction of Raja Parasuraman, professor of psychology at George Mason University, doctoral candidates Carl Smith and Peter Squire and master’s students Jane Barrow, Kevin Durkee and Jennifer Moore designed a system to reduce runway accidents and safety issues called “Runway Incursion Monitoring and Direct Alert System.” This system utilizes digital wireless transmissions to send an audible alert to pilots and ground operators on the airfield to prevent accidents. They also performed a human factors evaluation to ensure that the technology could be used effectively by pilots and other personnel. Peter Squire developed much of the technological implementation of the system while Carl Smith was instrumental in the design and management of the project.

On June 12, Carl Smith and Peter Squire presented the award-winning project at the American Association of Airport Executives annual meeting in Washington, DC. The competition provided the students with the opportunity to work with airport operators and industry experts to gather information and assess the efficacy of the proposed solutions. “It was an excellent opportunity to see science in terms of the real world application,” said Squire. The team also had the chance to receive feedback from industry experts regarding the utility and feasibility of the system. “Overall, developing a strong team, learning the technical aspects of aviation, and overcoming obstacles faced during the design process was the greatest experience; the best education ended up being the experience of designing the system itself,” said Smith.