Local Students Engineering Smart Solutions for Boeing

Collaborative robotics, haptic alert systems for hearing-impaired employees and riveting safety — these are just a few of the areas that University of Washington (UW) students want to develop for use in the aerospace industry.

The students took a big step towards that recently when they shared their ideas with Boeing leaders during an event at the Future of Flight Museum in Mukilteo. The students are developing their ideas while working at the Boeing Advanced Research Center, or BARC, on the UW campus.

“We want students to gain hands-on experience in the BARC and come work for Boeing to build the greatest airplanes in the world,” said Todd Zarfos, Commercial Airplanes Engineering leader and Boeing’s executive representative for the University of Washington.

During their event at the museum, undergraduate and graduate students discussed the technologies they’re developing in the lab with the guidance of Boeing leaders including lab manager Kevin Bray.

Parker Owan, a UW graduate student, shared how his Mechanic Assistance Collaborative Tool, which he’s dubbed MASCOT, could help mechanics perform assembly tasks in enclosed spaces more safely. “Using collaborative robots for remote or hazardous manufacturing applications could help ensure mechanics’ health and safety in the production environment, especially when visual access is limited,” he said.

The solutions developed in the BARC are designed to one day become a reality in aerospace.

“This type of work needs to happen and will help Boeing team members build our products as safely as possible,” said Amy May, director of Workplace Safety at Boeing.

Company leaders say the partnership with BARC is providing a real return on investment in terms of talent recruitment. In 2017 Boeing hired its first full-time BARC alumni. Meanwhile, six students working at the BARC have been hired this year as interns in BR&T and Commercial Airplanes Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development.

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