Posted: July 26, 2012
By Kari Fox
What started out as a class assignment for three Ohio State engineering students, ended in a first place win at the 2012 Federal Aviation Administration Design Competition for Universities.
The now graduates, Victoria Haky, Guy Jacks and Stephen McGirr, developed Terminal Buddy, a digital terminal inspection checklist, dispatch, and data analysis application, for use on mobile tablet devices such as the Apple iPad. With this app, airport operations staff can inspect the terminal, digitally record all the areas they've checked, note any discrepancies and have repair teams automatically dispatched. The app also serves as a database for recording all the inspections.
“Their task was to design something that would improve airport operations,” says Seth Young, faculty advisor and director for the Center for Aviation Studies. “And they wanted to design an app that would take the ‘paper’ out of the inspection process.”
Young says the hardest part for the team was coming up with the conceptual design.
“It involved doing a lot of background research, which took more time than expected,” says Young. “The second challenge was creating an app that would work everywhere.”
Through their research, the team learned that the use of air transportation is predicted to be on the rise in the future. By implementing Terminal Buddy, airport terminal management would be able to more adequately meet the needs of customers. While testing the app at the Port Columbus International Airport, they also discovered that it could produce significant cost savings as well as lead to safety improvements by removing discrepancies that could be hazardous.
“They were able to actually go around the airport to look for items that needed inspecting,” says Young.
Part of the team’s success came from combining their different area of study knowledge. Haky and McGirr were both aviation majors, while Jacks majored in computer science.
“Two of the students on the team (Haky and McGirr) knew a lot about airports but little about developing apps, so the third student (Guy) came on board who is an excellent app programmer but knew little about airport operations,” Young says. “They did great working together.”
Young thinks that in the end, applicability was what made Terminal Buddy a winner.
“The team didn't just come up with some theory or formula,” he says. “They designed a real product.”
The future for Terminal Buddy is unknown, but Young and the team are optimistic.
“We're hoping to get some funding for further development,” Young says. “We want to fully market and produce this product for airports around the world.”
Kari Fox is a student communications assistant with the College of Engineering.