SWE Members Place First in National Team Tech Competition

Cal Poly’s Society of Women Engineers team placed first in the national Team Tech Competition, where they presented their prototype model to solve the problem of empty seats on commercial planes. 

Five members of Cal Poly SWE were selected to share their anthropomorphic cargo system model in Houston, Texas, this fall. 

“Empty plane seats represent a major loss in revenue and wasted resources for airlines,” said Claire Franz, SWE member and the project’s co-director. “If we can put cargo on these seats, we can improve connectivity to rural regions because the flights will be profitable for the airline, allowing more frequent flights and a lower risk of cancellation.” 

Lauren Chan (left) and Claire Franz testing their anthropomorphic cargo system prototype on a commercial plane
Lauren Chan (left) and Claire Franz testing their anthropomorphic cargo system prototype on a commercial plane

“The term ‘anthropomorphic’ means ‘human-like’ because we tried finding a way that cargo could be loaded into plane seats just like humans are, while meeting all necessary safety requirements and being efficient to load,” Franz explained. 

The Team Tech Competition, sponsored by Boeing, is an annual competition that works to emphasize the importance of teamwork and interface with industry in the engineering education process. 

Teams are sponsored annually to compete at the SWE conference each fall in front of a panel of judges. 

“Over the course of the year, we partner with an industry member to work on a project they propose,” said co-project director Lauren Chan. 

Boeing sponsored Cal Poly SWE’s project for the 2021-22 school year.  

SWE team members preparing to present their project to the Team Tech judges
SWE team members preparing to present their project to the Team Tech judges

“Cal Poly Team Tech asks industry sponsors every year for project proposals and selects from the submitted proposals,” Franz said. “We select a project that we feel best fits the skills of the team, is exciting and interesting to us and would result in a tangible positive impact on the world.” 

This year, Franz and Chan represented Cal Poly at the Team Tech conference in Houston, along with Tegan Jackson, Elizabeth Mentel, Ashlen Sperry and Emily Wong. The team worked through three phases of the project – the research phase, the design phase and the building phase – before presenting their project to the judges and participating in a question-and-answer session. 

“I applaud the team for applying entrepreneurship and engineering to challenge the initial requirements and arrive at a practical solution that they showed addresses a much larger market problem than originally envisioned,” said Dr. Sky Sartorius, an engineer at Boeing and one of the team’s project advisers. 

In addition to creating an effective business model prototype and a solution to a growing problem, the team members improved their technical engineering skills and made connections in the aerospace industry. 

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