UTokyo team wins the Boeing Externship Program 2019 contest!


Friday 6 September 2019 the team from The University of Tokyo won a technology & business idea contest organized by The Boeing Company with their final presentation at Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya. The team consisting of Urban Engineering student Daisuke Fujihara (Bachelor course 4th year), Mechanical Engineering student Rei Yamaguchi (Bachelor course 3rd year), Chemistry student Youyuang Zhang (Master course 2nd year) and Aero- & Astronautics students Hirotaka Sakita (1st year master course), Yasunari Nishi (1st year master course) and Kentaro Noto (3rd year bachelor course), proposed their original idea with an emphasis on its practical achievability, and were praised for their high level of understanding of the challenges in the industry and their depth of investigation. They received the first prize out of the hands of Boeing Japan President Will Shaffer.

The contest is part of the Boeing Externship Program organized every spring/summer semester, and this year 8 Japanese universities took part (University of Tokyo, Nagoya University, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Tohoku University, Kyushu University Hokkaido University, Muroran Institute of Technology, and Kurume Institute of Technology). At our university, students can join the program through the “International Aviation Business PBL” course (by Jorg Entzinger & Hiroko Nakamura), under the umbrella of the “Creative Engineering Project”, which is offered as one of the department of Engineering’s Common Courses. In the course student get the opportunity to learn not only about aircraft technology, but also about a broad range of other topics including environmental regulations, the onboard customer service experience, and aircraft finance.

For the contest, students have to propose ideas that would be feasible within 10 years from both business and technological viewpoint. According the UTokyo team’s investigations, highly original ideas are mostly infeasible due to the high safety standards in the industry or the operational reliability required for customer services. On the other hand, technologies that might be sufficiently matured in 10 years are already under active development. The team therefore came up with an idea that does not affect the aircraft operations or customer experience directly. In their “Data Beyond Sky” business model, a company analyzes data obtained by the airline, and resells information that can be profitable for 3rd party companies. An example on the short term would be a tool that can forecast the demand for taxis, depending on the types of passengers on board, operational information such as delays, and weather. As an example of a long term business case, they suggested to reduce jetlag with the help of additional sensors in the aircraft seats.