5 Young Indian Innovators steal the show at the UNESCO-AIRBUS Fly Your Ideas Competition

This “virtual team” of young Indian innovators came together from across the world at the UNESCO-AIRBUS Fly Your Ideas competition and took home the “real” prize, making the country extremely proud. 

You could call it the “Winning Vibes”! That is because their winning idea was all about harvesting energy from the natural vibrations of aircraft wings.

Team Multifun from Left - Veeraswamy Damotharan, Ajith Moses, Shashikumar Anasuya Ponnusami, Prof Dineshkumar Harursampath, Shashank Agarwal and Mohit Gupta

Left to Right: Veeraswamy Dhamotharan, Ajith Moses, Satishkumar Anasuya Ponnusami, Prof Dineshkumar Harursampath, Shashank Agarwal and Mohit Gupta

Photo Credit: Airbus FYI

A team of five young Indian innovators (who called themselves ‘Team Multifun’), mentored by Assistant Professor Dineshkumar Harursampath from the Aerospace Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have won this year’s UNESCO-AIRBUS Fly Your Ideas (FYI) global student competition, which was recently held in Hamburg (Germany). As well as receiving the coveted trophy, Team Multifun was awarded a cash prize of €30,000 at the award ceremony in Hamburg.

Their winning project was entitled “A Hybrid Battery-Piezoelectric Composite Structure for Next Gen Aircraft”.

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Photo credit: Youtube

Currently spread across four continents, the winning team comprised of team leader Satishkumar Anasuya Ponnusami, (M.Sc Aerospace Engineering , IISc), currently pursuing his PhD at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands; Damotharan Veerasamy (M.Sc Aerospace Engineering, IISc), currently pursuing his PhD at City University, London; Shashank Agarwal and Ajith Moses, currently pursuing their PhDs at the Nonlinear Multifunctional Composite Analysis and Design (NMCAD) laboratory, Aerospace Engineering Department at IISc, under the guidance of Assistant Professor Dineshkumar Harursampath and Mohit Gupta, who was an Indian Academy of Sciences Fellow at the NMCAD lab at IISc. Gupta is currently pursuing his M.S at Georgia Tech, USA.

“Team Multifun’s winning ideas is all about good vibrations. The team’s idea entails aircraft wings dressed in a composite skin that harvests energy from natural vibrations on flex in the wings. Piezoelectric fibers gather electrical charges from even the smallest movements during flight, storing the energy generated in battery panels integrated in the fuselage and using it to power auxiliary-in-flight systems, such as lighting and entertainment systems. This reduces the energy footprint of aircraft during flight and could even replace the entire power source for ground operations,” said an official press release from Airbus Fly Your Ideas (FYI).

According to an official Airbus article, Dhamotharan said “Airbus Fly Your Ideas has been a wonderful platform for young researchers like us to showcase our innovative skills. And I personally felt the Fly Your Ideas challenge is designed in such a way that, throughout the competition, it keeps us with full of energy, enthusiasm and motivation to achieve the goal.”

The team’s Airbus Mentor, Deniz Oezol, says that the team’s “inspiring passion and drive for this project were simply astonishing!”

The UNESCO-AIRBUS Fly Your Ideas competition

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Photo Credit: Airbus-FYI

Launched in 2009 jointly by UNESCO and AIRBUS Industries, the Fly Your Ideas (FYI) is a biennial event, set up to inspire young people and urge them into contributing to the future of a more sustainable aviation industry and to engage them in the search for innovative ideas to support this vision. FYI is designed to identify and encourage next-gen innovators to uncover futuristic and unconventional, yet promising, solutions for flight evolution. Up till now, over 15,000 students from about 600 universities and more than 100 countries worldwide have participated in the FIY competition.

The genesis of the award-winning idea

Team Multifun Project Sketch

Airbus visualization of the idea

Airbus visualization of the idea

Photo Credit: Airbus-FYI

Even though they are across continents and in different time zones, the young innovators, the ‘Virtual Team’ as they like to be called, incubated their winning idea interacting with their mentor Prof Dineshkumar Harursampath at IISc. The winning five are all ex-students of Dineshkumar.

The team first zeroed in on the theme for their project. Each year has themes for the competition. For this year, the themes were: Energy, Efficiency, Affordable Growth, Traffic Growth, Passenger Experience and Community Friendliness. They chose Efficiency.

Video-conferencing was to become their sustenance; they discussed ideas, made preliminary drafts, exchanged notes and ran it through their mentor at IISc in Bengaluru. Having worked at the Nonlinear Multifunctional Composite Analysis and Design (NMCAD) laboratory at IISc was an added advantage, for it was here that they were exposed to a multi-disciplinary approach to research.

After months of fine-tuning, they finally arrived at their award winning project, “A Hybrid Battery-Piezoelectric Composite Structure for Next Gen Aircraft”. Submitted upon completion, under the leadership of Satishkumar Anasuya Poonsami in December 2014, the team was now officially termed “‘Team Multifun’ – from the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands”.

Making to the finals

Team Multifun Project Concept

A total of 518 multi-disciplinary teams, representing 3,700 students from 104 countries submitted projects for Fly Your Ideas 2015 and Team Multifun was one amongst them. Making it through the preliminary rounds, Team Multifun was joined by four other finalists: Team Birdport from the University of Tokyo (Japan), Team Aft-Burner-Reverser from Northwestern Polytechnical University (China), Team Retrolley from the University of São Paulo (Brazil) and Team Bolleboos from City University London (UK).

It was just before the final round that the members of Team Mulifun physically met, where they were joined by their IISc mentor, Prof Dineshkumar Harursampath and their Airbus Mentor, Deniz Oezol, who helped put final touches to their project.

The final teams presented their innovative concepts to a prestigious jury of Airbus and Industry experts, led by Charles Champion, Airbus Executive Vice President – Engineering.

And the winner is..

Team Multifun with Dr. Flaig Airbus Research and Technology and Ms.Fegebank Senator Science and Research and 2nd Mayor Hamburg

Left to Right: Dhamotharan, Ajith, Sathiskumar, Dr. Flaig, Head, Airbus Research and Technology, Ms. Fegebank, Senator (Science & Research) and second Mayor,Hamburg, Prof. Harursampath, Shashank and Mohit

Credit: Blogs.Nature

On 28 May 2015, Team Multifin was declared the winner of the fourth edition of Airbus Fly Your Ideas global student competition, organized in partnership with UNESCO to encourage the next generation of innovators and uncover future solutions for the future of flight.

Beginning as a ‘Virtual Team’, these 5 proud young India Innovators, studying in universities spread across four different continents, in reality, took home the prize.

As is it said, “the sky is the limit” and so it was, for these bright young Indian innovators and their mentor, Professor Dineshkumar Harursampath.

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: [email protected], or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

About the author: Sharath Ahuja works at the Indian Institute of Science, plays badminton, billiards and snooker and is also an amateur photographer.

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