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FAA Centers of Excellence

DOT Secretary of Transportation Student RAISE Award

AGENCY: U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

Action: Notice of the announcement of Requirements for the Secretary of Transportation's RAISE (Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering) Awards.

AUTHORITY: 15 U.S.C. 3719 (America COMPETES Act).

AWARD APPROVING OFFICIAL: Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Transportation.

SUMMARY: Pursuant to a recommendation by the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee, the Secretary of Transportation, through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is announcing the fifth annual competition to recognize students with the ability to demonstrate unique, innovative thinking in aerospace science and engineering. There are two divisions within the competition: a high school division and a university division (both undergraduate and graduate). The Department of Transportation (DOT) intends to use the competition to incentivize students at high schools and universities to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to aviation and aerospace issues, and to share those innovations with the broader community.

DATES: Submissions accepted April 20, 2018 through noon eastern time on July 9, 2018.



Subject of Challenge Competition: The Secretary's RAISE Award competition will recognize innovative scientific and engineering achievements that will have a significant impact on the future of aerospace or aviation. On behalf of the Secretary, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will accept student submissions and conduct an evaluation in July, 2018. The rules for this competition will also be available at


To be eligible to participate in the Secretary's RAISE Award competition, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For the high school division, the students must have been enrolled in at least one semester (or quarterly equivalent) at a U.S. high school (or equivalent approved home school program) in 2018. For the University division, the student must have been enrolled in a U.S.-based college or university for at least one semester (or quarterly equivalent) during 2017. Students may participate and be recognized as individuals or in teams. Each member of a team must meet the eligibility criteria. An individual may join more than one team. There is no charge to enter the competition.

The following additional rules apply:

  1. Candidates shall submit a project in the competition under the rules promulgated by the Department of Transportation (DOT);
  2. Candidates shall agree to execute indemnifications and waivers of claims against the Federal government as provided in this Notice;
  3. Candidates may not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of employment;
  4. Candidates may not be an employee of the DOT, including but not limited to the FAA;
  5. Candidates shall not be deemed ineligible because an individual used Federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a competition, if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals participating in the competition on an equitable basis;
  6. The competition is subject to all applicable Federal laws and regulations. Participation constitutes the Candidates' full and unconditional agreement to these rules and to the Secretary's decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to this competition;
  7. Submissions which in the Secretary's sole discretion are determined to be substantially similar to a prior submitted entry may be disqualified;
  8. Submissions must be original, must be the work of the Candidates, and must not violate the rights of other parties. All submissions remain the property of the applicants. Each Candidate represents and warrants that s/he, or the team, is the sole author and owner of the submission, that the submission is wholly original, that it does not infringe any copyright or any other rights of any third party of which the Candidate is aware, and, if submitted in electronic form, is free of malware;
  9. By submitting an entry, contestants and entrants agree to assume any and all risks and waive any claims against the Federal Government and its related entities (except in the case of willful misconduct) for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from their participation in this contest, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence of otherwise;
  10. The Secretary and the Secretary's designees have the right to request access to supporting materials from the Candidates;
  11. The submissions cannot have been submitted in the same or substantially similar form in any previous Federally-sponsored promotion or Federally-sponsored contest, of any kind;
  12. Each Candidate grants to the FAA, the DOT, as well as other Federal agencies with which it partners, the right to use names, likeness, application materials, photographs, voices, opinions, and/or hometown and state for the Department's promotional purposes in any media, in perpetuity, worldwide, without further payment or consideration; and
  13. The FAA Administrator collects personal information from Candidates when they enter this competition. The information collected is subject to the Challenge Post privacy policy located at

Expression of Interest: While not required, students are strongly encouraged to send brief expressions of interest to the FAA prior to submitting entries. The expressions of interest should be received by noon eastern time on May 30, 2018 to and should include the following elements: 1) name of candidates; 2) name of educational institutions with which candidates are affiliated; 3) telephone and email addresses for each candidate; and 4) a synopsis of the concept, limited to no more than two pages, providing a high-level overview of the proposed project and related research.


Complete submission packages shall consist of the following elements:

  1. Nomination letter from at least one teacher, advisor, faculty member, and others as appropriate. The nomination letter(s) must communicate accomplishments in the following areas:
    1. Technical Merit of the Concept
      Evidence of technical merit based upon teacher (parent or legal guardian in the case of home schooled applicants), advisor, or faculty nomination and evaluation of the submitted proposal, conducted research, written paper, results, and/or reports.
    2. Professionalism and Leadership
      Evidence of professionalism and leadership may be in the form of, but not limited to:
      1. Membership and offices held in various groups
      2. Presentations made to various groups, meetings, and at symposia
      3. Leadership in student professional activities
      4. Community outreach activities
  2. An overall summary of the innovation, not to exceed one page, which includes a title of the project, a one paragraph synopsis, and a statement of the potential innovative impact the concept will have on the field of aviation or aerospace;
  3. A copy of the student's academic transcript or certified grade report (as applicable);
  4. A copy of the paper(s) and related materials describing the innovative concept written by the student(s) being nominated (no page limit).

The FAA may request additional information, including supporting documentation, more detailed contact information, releases of liability, and statements of authenticity to guarantee the originality of the work. Failure to respond in a timely manner may result in disqualification.

Electronic packages may be transmitted by email to Hard copies should be forwarded with a cover letter to the attention of:

Patricia Watts, Ph.D., Program Director

Centers of Excellence Program Office, L-28

FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center

Atlantic City International Airport, NJ 08405

The submission period begins on April 20, 2018. Submissions must be sent by noon eastern time on July 9, 2018. The timeliness of submissions will be determined by the postmark (if sent in hard copy) or time stamp of the recipient (if emailed). Competition administrators assume no responsibility for lost or untimely submissions for any reason.


The winner is expected to be announced in October, 2018. A trophy with the student's name and date of award will be displayed at the Department of Transportation and a display copy of the trophy will be sent to the student's school/college/university. The student(s) will receive an additional plaque. At the option of the FAA Administrator, the FAA will pay for invitational travel expenses to Washington, DC for up to four representatives of the winning team(s) should selectees be invited to present their project(s) to FAA and DOT officials.

The university level student(s) will attend the annual Outstanding Student of the Year Awards ceremony hosted by the University Transportation Centers - Council of Transportation Research Centers (CUTC). The DOT will honor the RAISE award recipient at this event which is conducted during the Transportation Research Board meetings each January in Washington, DC. Further details will be provided to the selectee(s).


Students will submit entries to the FAA Centers for Excellence Program Director. The FAA Aviation Education Program Manager and the FAA COE Program Director will review entries to determine eligibility. The COE Program Office will convene a panel consisting of representative experts from academia, government (officials including those within the FAA and the DOT), and representatives of the private sector. The panel members will judge the entries and rank order submissions. The FAA COE Program Office will present the most highly qualified entries to the FAA Administrator, who will make recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation. The Secretary will make the final selection(s). The Department reserves the right to not award the prize in either or both the High School category or the University category if the selecting officials believe that no submission demonstrates sufficient innovative scientific and engineering potential and/or achievements in its category.

Panel members will judge entries against other submissions from the same division or category based on the following criteria.

Technical Merit:

  • Has the submission presented a clear understanding of the associated problems?
  • Has the submission developed a logical and workable solution and approach to solving the problem/s?
  • What are the most significant aspects of this concept?
  • Has the submission clearly described the breadth of impact of the innovation?


  • Is this concept new or a variation of an existing idea, and in what way(s)?
  • How is this work unique?
  • Was the concept developed independently or in cooperation with others?


  • To what extent does this project have the potential to make a significant impact and/or contribution to the future of the aviation and aerospace environment?


  • Who directly benefits from this work?
  • Can this program or activity be implemented in a practical fashion?
  • What are the costs anticipated to be incurred and saved by executing this concept?


  • How has this individual/group measured the impact on the aviation environment?
  • To what extent does the innovation result in measurable improvements?


  • Can this effort be scaled?
  • Is this work specific to one region, various regions, or to the entire nation?

All factors are important and will be given consideration, but the advisory panel will give the "technical merit" factor the most weight in the screening process. The Secretary of Transportation retains sole discretion to select the winning entrant.

Additional Information:

  • Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications.
  • Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act challenge submission.

Updated on: April 30, 2018

Shelley Yak, Director

William J. Hughes Technical Center

A RAISE for Innovation Excellence

From FAA Daily Broadcast/MyFAA, 12 January 2018

Montage of photos of the RAISE winner and his work.
Secretary Chao recognizes a University of Arkansas civil engineering doctoral student with this year's RAISE Award for his research on the development of anti-icing runway pavements using renewable energy.

Within the frigid Arkansas air, Joseph Daniels has found the ideal environment for his research.

At an outdoor facility, he has joined with his university advisor and a few technicians to test his development of an anti-icing pavement system designed to improve airfield safety during extreme weather. The system aims to use renewable solar energy to lower the operational costs of heating surfaces to prevent flight delays, cancellations, and potential accidents.

Joseph Daniels
DOT RAISE Award Winner Joseph Daniels

"We're conducting a lot of research right now," said Daniels, a doctoral civil engineering student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. "The weather is in the single digits in Arkansas. We've been testing our system."

His research project — titled "Development of Anti-Icing Airfield Heated Pavement System Using Solar Energy — earned him the Department of Transportation's Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) award. The annual Secretary's RAISE award recognizes innovative scientific and engineering concepts and student achievements that may significantly impact the future of aerospace or aviation. He was honored at the Jan. 6 27th Annual Outstanding Student of the Year awards ceremony sponsored by the DOT and hosted by the Council of University Transportation Centers and their industry partners at the Transportation Research Board (TRB), in Washington, D.C. Dr. Kevin Womack, director of DOT's Office of Office of Research, Development, and Technology, presented the award to Daniels.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao praised Daniels' research on improving airport safety during potentially hazardous winter conditions. "Congratulations to this year's winner for developing new techniques to enhance safety during extreme weather events at airports, which is so important to protecting the traveling public," Chao said.

Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell praised Daniels for proposing an "innovation solution" to increase safety, economic, and environmental benefits at the nation's airports — a key component of the FAA's mission.

"Mr. Daniels reflects a passion for aviation improvements overall and shows a willingness to continue to explore additional solutions to a problem should his original proposal not be as beneficial as he hopes," Elwell said.

The outdoor research facility at the University of Arkansas
The outdoor research facility at the University of Arkansas where Joseph Daniels has tested his development of an anti-icing pavement system.

The FAA, along with the DOT, and the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC), also acknowledged Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Jacqueline Thomas and Texas A&M student Joshua Harris as 2017 Outstanding Students of the Year for their contributions and work with the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment and the FAA Center of Excellence for General Aviation, respectively. The annual DOT Student of the Year awards encourage college students to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to transportation challenges.

After earning his undergraduate civil engineering degree at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in Greensboro, N.C, the University of Arkansas recruited Daniels to pursue his graduate studies. At first, he considered researching the maintenance of bridges before realizing the connection between his passion for civil engineering and aviation.

2017 Outstanding Students of the Year
2017 Outstanding Students of the Year Joshua Harris, Texas A&M, and Jacqueline Thomas, MIT, were also recognized Jan. 6.

"I actually didn't take into consideration that civil engineering was an aspect of aviation," he said. "I never really gave it time to see where civil engineering would fall within going to an airport and getting on an airplane."

In July 2014, he began meeting with officials at a local regional airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, to explore ways to enhance aircraft operations during adverse weather.

"I was beginning to get my feet wet," Daniels said. "I read a lot of articles and tried to find something that hadn't been looked at."

He discovered the significant safety risks that snow and ice pose to aircraft takeoffs and landings. According to NASA estimates, wet airfield conditions during winter contributed to more than 50 accidents from 1998 to 2004. In March 2015, wet wintry conditions caused a Delta Airlines aircraft to veer off the runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport and come to a rest upon a snowbank.

Daniels consulted the work of other researchers in the area of deicing methods, such as experts partnered with the FAA's Center of Excellence for General Aviation (PEGASUS).

"They have a couple researchers who are the superstars in heated pavement technology," he said. He also met recently retired Airports Civil Engineer George Legarreta, who worked on an FAA team to implement regulations for the safe operation of large planes during icing conditions.

Daniels said his anti-icing system is twofold. He has researched the hydronic circulation of hot liquids in tubes through concrete to heat airfield pavement. He has also explored the direct application of electricity to surfaces. His university testing facility — enclosed within a 65-foot-by65-foot chained fence area — includes raised concrete test slabs, solar panels, a battery storage bank, and other structures. Surveillance cameras document the hydronic and electrical tests.

"My systems run like a thermostat," Daniels said. "When the concrete drops below a certain temperature, it turns on, and that is with or without snow."

Diagram of Joseph Daniels' anti-icing research
Joseph Daniels' anti-icing research in Arkansas includes his testing of the hydronic circulation of hot liquids in tubes though concrete.

In his RAISE nomination letter, Daniels' University of Arkansas advisor, College of Engineering Associate Professor Ernie Heymsfield noted his "passion for air transportation and renewable energy." Daniels has submitted an article about his findings to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Cold Regions Engineering for publication.

"Anti-icing pavement is a research topic that has great interest for promoting airfield safety and Joseph is capable of addressing this research challenge," Heymsfield wrote. "Joseph is strong academically, a leader, and will represent the civil engineering profession and airfield community well to society."

In 2015 and 2016, Daniels was one of the recipients of the DOT's prestigious Dwight David Eisenhower Graduate Fellowships, which are designed to attract qualified students to the field of transportation and research. He attended the TRB's annual meeting in 2017 to present his research. Also in 2016, he presented a talk at a TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event in Knoxville, Tenn. (View a video of Joseph's "Engineering the Value of Time" presentation here).

Daniels is involved in other campus and community activities, including his service as president of the university's Black Graduate Student Association and as a member of the university's Graduate Dean Student Advisory Board and the executive board of the Northwest Arkansas Branch of the NAACP. He has visited schools as a motivational speaker.

Joseph Daniels receives his award.
From l to r: Joseph's father, Dr. Joseph Daniels, Jr.; Grover Burthey, DOT; Joseph Daniels; Matthew Kopko, DOT; and Joseph's mother, Madelyn Daniels.

During his childhood in his native Silver Spring, Md., he showed an early knack for building. At 13, he took a creative approach when he needed a weight bench for his middle school workouts. He sewed square cushions — used by his sister during her high school soccer matches — to a bathing bench and attached an old piano stand that functioned as his rack.

"I had a bench press," Daniels said. "As a kid, I always enjoyed building things and taking things apart. I enjoyed drawing things up. It was needs-based."

Daniels was "stunned' when he received the news of his RAISE award. He applied for the recognition last summer at Heymsfield's urging. "I had prayed about it and kept it in my prayer journal for a long time," he said. "Being able to have this was outstanding. It definitely brought a smile to my face and amazement about what God can do."

His parents and sister joined him at his award ceremony in Washington. His father is the pastor of Emory Fellowship Church in Washington, D.C. and his mother is a retired human resources professional. His sister works as a schoolteacher in Maryland.

After receiving his award and meeting DOT officials and other industry representatives, Daniels returned to Arkansas to continue his winter research with Heymsfield and two scientific research technicians, Mark Kuss and David Peachee. He plans to graduate with his doctorate next summer. "We're really trying to figure out what the solar aspect looks like and how other researchers could use our studies to incorporate a renewable system," he said.

"We're trying to maximize all we can during this winter season," he added. "We will use the data to move forward."

US Transportation Secretary Recognizes University of Arkansas Student With Award for Work on Solar Airfield Pavement Anti-Icing Systems

WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has honored Joseph Daniels, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arkansas, with the Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) award in Washington, D.C. The annual award encourages college students to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to aviation challenges.

Daniels' work examined the potential for developing an airfield pavement anti-icing system with electric heating elements and a photovoltaic energy system. He looked at the operation and economic advances of solar water heating technology and developed a metric to compare the solar technology with existing heated pavement projects and conventional deicing methods.

"Congratulations to this year's winner for developing new techniques to enhance safety during extreme weather events at airports, which is so important to protecting the traveling public," Secretary Chao said.

The RAISE award recognizes innovative scientific and engineering achievements that will have a significant impact on the future of aerospace or aviation.

A native of Silver Spring, MD, Daniels is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. His long-term objective is to incorporate sustainable practices and renewable energy to his research approach for cost efficiency, system longevity, and environmental protection.

The 2018 RAISE announcement will be published in March.

How to reroute planes, on the fly, to prevent collisions with rockets.

Read about how Rachael Tompa, Stanford PhD student and 2016 recipient of the RAISE Award has found a promising new approach to commercial aircraft safety in the space age.

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