Three high school students have won an innovation award for developing an adaptive 737 winglet that could save the fleet up to $2 billion per year in jet fuel, the Department of Transportation has announced. Miraj Rahematpura, Christopher Muckle, and Mario Chris, of Middletown, Conn., entered their project in a competition organized by the DOT to encourage interest in science and technology, and recently visited the staff in Washington to talk about their work. "To say we were all impressed with the quality and real-world value of their work would be an understatement," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. "Not only did they develop a highly technical winglet, they were able to explain their work with exceptional clarity and maturity."
Current 737 winglets are fixed at a 26-degree angle, which best reduces drag at cruising altitude and improves fuel efficiency by about 3 percent. The team used computer models to find winglets capable of being moved to a more efficient angle during ascent and descent without adding too much extra weight or mechanical complication to the wing. The models indicate the team's adaptive tip could improve fuel efficiency by 10 percent, LaHood said. The technology could save operators 600 million gallons of jet fuel per year.