The 2015-16 Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs challenges both individuals and teams of undergraduate and graduate students working under the guidance of a faculty advisor to address issues currently facing airports and the National Airspace System.  The Competition offers open-ended, real-world issues in four broad challenge areas:  Airport Operation and Maintenance; Runway Safety, Runway Incursions and Runway Excursions; Airport Environmental Interactions, and Airport Management and Planning.


ACRP Design Competition Guidelines 2015-6 (pdf)

Competition Website 


The following new challenges have been added in each of the four challenge areas: 

  • Approaches to addressing cybersecurity issues with respect to integrity of aircraft and airport systems
  • Safety considerations for drones operating in or near the airport environment—issues and constraints as well as benefits and costs
  • Integration of alternative energy-producing and energy-saving technology into the airport environment
  • Innovations to accommodate the aging passenger demographic at airports.


Student winners earn cash prizes and, for first place design submissions, the opportunity to present at a professional venue and to receive their award at a Ceremony at the National Academies in Washington, DC.


Feedback from Faculty and student evaluations on the educational value of the Competition has been extremely positive.  They consistently cite the value of the open-ended challenges, real-world problems and access to airport operators and industry experts.   The Competition is often used in capstone design courses, but has also been used by student chapters of professional societies and as an independent study topic. Airport issues cross a wide range of disciplines relating to the management, safety, capacity and efficiency of the nation’s airports.


Questions can be addressed to or the Virginia Space Grant Consortium office (757-766-5210).