Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016-07-12: Autonomy Incubator Intern Lauren Howell Represents USA at Airbus Airnovation 2016

Lauren Howell is finally back after a week of networking, competition, and complimentary beer at Airbus Airnovation 2016 at Technische Universiteit (TU) Delft in the Netherlands. She was one of only forty students selected from around the world to participate in the all-expenses-paid conference.

"Seventeen nationalities were represented among those forty people," she said. "I made some people honorary Americans on July Fourth; we needed to celebrate!"

Airnovation 2016 was open not just to aeronautical engineers like Lauren, but to any major "applicable to the field of innovation," she explained. That includes business majors, computer scientists, or engineers of any stripe.

Lauren and her cohort on top of TU Delft's underground library.

Once they arrived at TU Delft, the forty participants were divided into five teams and tasked with developing a "game-changing" unmanned aerial system (UAS) by the end of the week. They had to think and behave like a start-up, which meant including a budget, a business model, a physical model, return on investment estimates, and potential partners in their final package.

"We were presented with an open-ended challenge to design a game-changing UAS and pitch it to the board of 'investors,' which was made up of really important people at Airbus who are actually in charge of listening to innovative ideas," she said.

"So who won?" I asked.

"My team won," she said, fighting a smile. Lauren is as notorious in the Ai for her modesty as she is for her brilliance.

Her team's winning design was a UAS with an environmentally-focused, humanitarian mission.

"Our design was really cool— it was a blimp that would sweep through the air and de-pollute the air. Our pilot case was Beijing, China," she explained. "One out of five people who die in China, die as a result of pollution."

In addition to bringing home the gold, Lauren also won an individual award— a victory she credits to the Ai.

"The cool thing about how they work as Airbus is that they also use the AGILE method," she said, referencing the Ai's Agile approach with daily "scrums" and bi-weekly "sprints" that keep everyone involved in what everyone else is doing. "I won the Scrum Master award. So, I'm honorary Jim [Neilan] of the Netherlands."

When she wasn't leading her team to victory, Lauren spent time touring Delft, hearing speakers from high up in Airbus, and experiencing Dutch culture with her diverse community of colleagues.

Downtown Delft, as captured by Lauren.

"It was a really amazing opportunity for networking, and a beautiful thing to witness people from all over the world coming together to come up with five totally unique ideas," she said.

Now, she's stateside and back at work. But, she said, the impact that Airnovation had on her approach to engineering will be far-reaching.

"It helped me understand the innovative way of thinking," she said. "Engineers tend to come up with something cool, and then think about how to make it practical. Now, I think, 'Let me take a look around me and identify what the pain of the world is. And now, let me design something that will fill that need.'"

Lauren's flight home.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible platform God has given you, Lauren! Continue to hold your gifts with humble confidence and impact the world!! Way to go.