Engineering Students Shine in 2024 Aviation Big Data Case Competition

photo of engineering students and faculty in front of large antique commercial airliner

Student teams and faculty members from the joint college visited American Airlines Headquarters in Fort Worth, TX, as part of the Aviation Big Data Case Competition in April 2025. (Courtesy Yanshuo Sun).

The first Aviation Big Data Case Competition, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and co-organized by the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and American Airlines (AA), showcased the enormous potential of big data analytics in tackling genuine challenges within the airline industry. 

This extraordinary competition united some of our brightest engineering students, eager to showcase their data analytics skills and solutions for operation-related problems.


First Round: At the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering 

The preliminary round kicked off in January 2024, attracting 14 teams of undergraduate and graduate students from diverse fields such as industrial engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science and urban planning. 

The participants were tasked with developing a customer trip intent classification algorithm using authentic flight booking data provided by the Operations Research & Advanced Analytics Group (OR&AA) at AA.
On April 26, the students showcased their algorithms and the predictive performance to a panel of engineering faculty judges, including Yanshuo Sun, Hui Wang and Arda Vanli, along with OR&AA domain experts Jose Ramirez-Hernandez and John E. Fontecha. The panel evaluated the teams based on creativity, quality of solutions, communication and team composition. 

Ultimately, three teams—SkyStats, Tally Riders and Egret—advanced to the second round hosted at the American Airlines Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

Collage of photos from awards ceremony with student teams
Three teams of engineering students tackled algorithmic challenges in the airline industry at American Airlines HQ in April 2024. The teams were Tally Riders, Egret and SkyStats. (Courtesy Yanshuo Sun)

Second Round: At American Airlines Headquarters

The second round launched on May 10 at the AA Headquarters. Students were treated to a tour of the AA Skyview Campus and the CR Smith Museum, offering them valuable insights into the operations of one of the world’s largest airlines. During lunch, Majid Farsani revealed the award-winning Hub Efficiency Analytics Tool (HEAT), which intricately optimizes flight schedules to mitigate weather-related disruptions at major hub airports. Students saw how sophisticated integer programming models can save airlines millions of dollars by curbing flight cancellations and delays.

The afternoon included a tour of AA hangars, where students delved into the intricacies of aircraft maintenance operations supporting nearly 7,000 daily flights. Additionally, they had an opportunity to explore the cockpit and business-class cabin of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

After a day of valuable learning experiences, Ramirez-Hernandez presented the challenge for the second round: estimating the aircraft maintenance workload needed for the next three years. 

Over approximately seven hours, the students meticulously analyzed data, refined their approaches and prepared presentations. The judging panel, which included Patrice Yapo, Principal Operations Research Consultant at OR&AA, selected Team Egret, Team Tally Riders and Team SkyStats as the second-round victors.

During the lunch break, faculty and students engaged with OR&AA leaders, including Tuell Green, managing director and Justin Yates, manager and Hakkoda, an industry collaborator and sponsor. The competition concluded with an awards ceremony.


Impact and Future Prospects

The Aviation Big Data Case Competition highlighted the pivotal role of collaborations between academia and industry in advancing data science education and research. 

The event gave participating students valuable hands-on experience in solving real-world challenges and opened doors to potential career opportunities in the aviation industry. The enduring partnership between the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and American Airlines continues to nurture a new generation of data-savvy engineers poised to revolutionize airline operations.

This event’s resounding success sets a promising precedent for future competitions, all aimed at bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application in the dynamic field of data science.


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