Project ECOAir places second in NASA ARMD 2022 Gateways to Blue Skies: Airports of Tomorrow Competition

Posted: June 22, 2022
The EcoAir team with their award
The Project ECOAir team with their award. (from left to right: Niraj Patel, Madison Herrmann, Maya Sivakumaran, John Manuel, Mohammed Oumer, and Lane Highmiller)

A team of Ohio State aerospace engineering students placed second out of eight finalists from top universities across the country in NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s (ARMD) 2022 Gateways to Blue Skies: Airports of Tomorrow (Blue Skies) Competition in early June.

The group consisting of Maya Sivakumaran, Madison Herrmann, Niraj Patel, Lane Highmiller, John Manuel and Mohammed Oumer presented their airport design concept titled “Project ECOAir” to a panel of industry experts at the 2022 Blue Skies Forum at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, on June 2-3, 2022.

“It was invigorating and joyous!” Sivakumaran said. “We had worked so hard since October up until this culminating point and it was wonderful to feel like all that hard work paid off. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of the other competition, and we were somewhat surprised to see levels ranging from undergraduate to PhD students competing. Knowing that we can hold our place against this high-achieving group of students felt great.”

As the aviation industry moves into the future of Zero Emission Aviation by 2050, planes and airports of today will be vastly different in tomorrow’s landscape, the NASA press release states. The Blue Skies competition is a new event that seeks to inspire the incoming generation of engineers, planners, architects, and other related disciplines to conceptualize changes to new airport designs or airport overhauls to ensure technology changes in the air go hand-in-hand with infrastructure changes on the ground. The competition was scored based on a submitted technical paper, video, presentation, and infographic.

The first day of the forum began with each team giving a presentation to a panel of judges including a Q&A session and infographic display. As the first team to present, the Ohio State team successfully kicked off the forum Thursday morning, Herrmann said.

ECOair infographic

The final day of the forum involved a tour of Langley Research Center, where the group got to try on flight suits, visit the hangar, walk inside of a wind tunnel, and see inside the model shop. The competition's final ceremony was held that night at the Virginia Air and Space Center.

Along with their placement of second, the team was invited to present their ideas to the Las Vegas Airport Strategic Planning Committee, which is currently planning the creation of the first major international airport in the U.S. since Boulder, Colorado, in the 90s.

“It felt surreal. When they announced ‘Project ECOAir’ as the second-place team, I cannot describe our excitement,” Herrmann said. “We have put an immense amount of work into this proposal, and it's become something we are all very passionate about. To receive this award for our work is truly an honor. We went into this with a mindset to aim high, but also recognizing the level of competition that could be present. No matter how the competition went, we were just happy to be there. Being able to say that we've given a presentation at NASA is a dream come true.”

The group was advised by members of the Battelle Center for Science Engineering and Public Policy, Ethan Rivera and Dr. Elizabeth Newton. They also received guidance and direction from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering faculty, including Dr. Brian Ritchie, Dr. Ali Jhemi, and Dr. John Horack.

The ECOAir team also appreciated the resources and hospitality provided by the Battelle Center, which allowed them a convenient location to host meetings.

ECOAIR with Their advisor

“First and foremost, we would like to thank our faculty advisors Mr. Ethan Rivera and Dr. Elizabeth Newton. We valued their perspectives and are continually grateful for the student resources at the Battelle Center,” Herrmann said. “We were fortunate to have Ethan on the trip to Langley with us, who gave his time and effort to support our team, both as a friend and mentor. We would also like to thank our professors, representatives of KOSU and CMH, the Blue Skies Coordinators, and the judges who served on the panel for the forum.”

The team is excited to see what the competition brings in the future and encourage other Ohio State students to consider getting involved.

“I highly recommend it to those in all engineering fields, and even those in non-engineering fields,” Sivakumaran said. “There were a wide range of majors in this year's competition, from architecture to social science to business. If you are interested in participating next year, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at with any questions or interest!”

Each member will be a third-year student next semester and listed their club involvements/summer plans below:

Madison Herrmann - Buckeye Space Launch Initiative (BSLI): NASA Student Launch Project Manager; NASA’s L’SPACE Academy; American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics member; Current internship at Collins Aerospace.

Maya Sivakumaran - BSLI Member; American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics President; Eminence Fellow; Engineers Without Borders (International Technical Committee Lead), Kappa Alpha Theta; Current internship at GE Aviation.

Niraj Patel - BSLI Avionics Lead; Currently working with congregation to build temple in New Jersey.

John Manuel - BSLI member; Eagle Scout; Longboarding club; Current internship at Bayer.

Lane Highmiller - BSLI Structures lead; Current internship at Stanley Electric.

Mohammed Oumer - BSLI member; Ethiopian and Eritrean Organization; L’SPACE academy; Current internship at Collins Aerospace.

Written by Jake Rahe (

Category: Undergraduate