Frequently Asked Questions

A Q&A Session was held on November 9th, 2021 for teams who submitted a Notice of Intent prior to the event.

Please click on the buttons below to review files from the Blue Skies Q&A Session.
(Slides do not include questions asked on call. For questions asked on call, please view the Summary Document below.)

2022 Blue Skies Q&A and Q&A #2 Recordings:


Foreign students and foreign universities are not eligible to participate in this challenge.

The Gateways to Blue Skies Competition is a student-led initiative. Faculty advisors should serve as mentors, allowing students to do the bulk of the work on Blue Skies projects.

For teams awarded as finalists, faculty advisors will further be responsible for ensuring that their team gets adequate access to the university resources and labs they need to successfully complete their project as proposed.  Additionally, they’ll be responsible for managing the funds sent to the university on behalf of the challenge, and assisting teams to participate fully in the culminating Forum.

As long as the advisor is employed by the university  to teach a class and/or perform research, and either a U.S. Citizen or a legal permanent resident, they qualify as a faculty advisor.

A panel of NASA and industry experts will evaluate and score the competition components.

Yes, as long as they were students during the Fall semester when you begin working on the project. If they are an undergraduate moving on to graduate level work, they may still compete as part of an undergraduate team without changing the team’s status.

The university must fill out the W9, as we are only able to issue stipend checks directly to universities (not to individual student organizations).

However, if you are selected as a finalist, we can mail the check to any specific mailing address at the university, including a student club address (eg. SEDS).

There is a section on the bottom of the online technical paper submission form that allows you to enter in a specific mailing address of your choosing, to ensure the stipend check reaches the correct point of contact that can deposit the stipend into the correct university account.

It is the responsibility of each team to appropriately handle copyright issues related to anything you choose to use in your presentation (including, but not limited to: music, images, graphics, and photos). Neither NASA nor NIA can grant permission for you to use copyrighted material.

You can absolutely submit your design as an abstract to other conferences, as long as it is presented to the public at the Blue Skies Forum first.

It’s also ok to present the work at your university (to other students/faculty/internal school events) before the Blue Skies Forum.

A large part of the theme is climate friendly aviation. Which type of planes and what kind of fuel they use is up to you to select and justify based on your research of the technology and 2050s aviation landscape.

Many airports see their capacity change over time. Your chosen airport location and your assessment of the 2050s aviation landscape should help determine capacity.

Many airports serve multiple aviation market types. Based on your 2050s aviation landscape research and airport design assumptions, you may decide to include multiple types.

If it is something that needs modification because of assumed technology advancements or changed airplane designs, you should consider it.

No, the location is up to the student team.

You may make your design more generic or zone-specific. However, terrains, weather conditions, elevation, and other factors that affect assumptions and design choices should be considered.

This is up to the student team. The current aviation industry — and you as part of the future of it! — will have to upgrade our existing airports to support the climate friendly aviation industry of tomorrow.

You may design any of the runway aspects you deem necessary, but this should not be a focus area in your Technical Paper (as stated in Project Description section).  

Any aspect of the runway can be included in the airport design. However, the competition does not focus on runways so it’s recommended to not focus much time and report space on them. Regarding technologies put in place around the runway, let’s clarify: Perhaps your research-based assumption for the future is that there’s going to be autonomy in the future, and that autonomy is going to require certain technologies around the runway. You’d need to include those elements and justify them through your research and your 2050s aviation landscape ideas. It’s acceptable to include these if it’s relevant to the technologies involved in the future landscape.

An airport is usually more than just one building and includes a multitude of technologies and facilities to enable aviation operations.

Various vehicle types, fuels, and technologies come with their own safety concerns which should be considered when making design choices.

If your airport concept needs hangars, you may include them in the design.

You should not focus on air traffic management in your technical paper, but you may include an ATC Tower in your design.

Yes, assumptions are up to the student teams to make and justify.

If natural disasters can happen in the location of your 2050s airport, you may want to consider that when addressing safety for your new technologies and fuels.

Airport altitude is an important factor to consider when making design choices.

Yes. Factors that affect assumptions and design choices should be considered. It is up to teams to determine the location of their airport, make assumptions for that specific airport in the 2050s landscape and create/justify designs as they relate to those assumptions. 

NASA is doing a lot of research on subjects like urban air mobility. This research may factor into your vision of the 2050s aviation landscape, and if this future landscape includes localized air transportation to the airport, it may require airport elements that are very acceptable to include in your design. For example, if your vision is that air travelers are not taking a ground taxi to the airport, but instead taking an air taxi, you may include infrastructure such as a UAM vertiport in your airport design to accommodate that vision.

No. The only visual requirement is a digital infographic that is due at the time of the technical paper submission (March 3rd), for all teams. Similarly, there is no requirement for a model or virtual model for the finalist teams’ presentations.

Although it’s not required, teams may incorporate a model or virtual model into any of their submissions, if it is on a platform that is accessible to all of the judges (i.e., please do not use any non-standard software that the majority of the public doesn’t have access to).

Refer to the Competition Guidelines for more information on this question.

Finalist teams will print their infographic to display at the 2022 Blue Skies Forum as their poster.

It is up to each team to determine the best way of displaying their concept via an Infographic. The infographic should:

  • Be a visual representation of your 2050s airport design choices and incorporate supporting information from your technical paper, in a way that is easily understood by audiences from non-technical backgrounds. The infographic should be a blend of both visual and textual information (with more emphasis on the visual aspect).
  • Reflect only the information discussed in the technical paper (i.e., it should NOT be used to add additional information that didn’t fit within the 7-page technical paper page limit).
  • Justify presented design elements in a visually compelling manner.

      The question is a bit unclear. Refer to the Competition Guidelines for more information on this question.

      The Technical Paper is meant to be a research paper that includes key findings from your research that have informed your design ideas.

      The Tech Paper is generally comprised of two sections:

      • Description of 2050s aviation landscape assumptions / Research background.
      • Design concept description and discussion of how assumptions and research informed the design. (Emphasis is placed on this section)

        The Tech Paper should include the following information:

        • Identification and implementation of alternative/renewable fuels and complementary aeronautics concepts/shapes and designs (VERY IMPORTANT!)
        • Assessment of the 2050s aviation landscape and appropriate landscape altering factors.
        • Inclusion of innovative capabilities/technology
        • Indicate WHY you chose your design/configuration/system/approach in terms of VALUE in the areas of technology readiness, system performance, safety, and affordability.
          • Analysis and research supporting key airport design choices o Realistic technology assumptions, including realistic Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) and justifications
          • Consideration of the effects of assumptions/design choices downstream and on the upgradeability of any evolutionary architecture.
        • Timeline of key technology advancements to achieve your 2050s airport design

              Any civil servant who is currently working for and getting paid for that work by the federal government. This includes Pathways Interns or other federal co-op students.  It does not include Pathways Interns or other federal co-op students who are in an INACTIVE and UNPAID portion of their co-op (i.e., if they are not currently working as a paid federal co-op this semester, then they can participate in the Blue Skies competition this semester). 

              Because finalist teams receive stipends to support full participation in the Forum, this eligibility constraint has been implemented to avoid double sources of federal income going to any finalist team member who may also be receiving other payment from the government for similar work.

              Yes. Federal work study through, say, a Pell program or through FAFSA does not preclude you from participating in the competition.

              It’s up to each team to allot appropriate space to describe and justify their 2050s aviation landscape. Because each team will focus on different aspects of that landscape, space allocation will be different for each team. A good rule of thumb is to provide enough information to justify your vision for the 2050s landscape, but allocate more of your available space to your team’s design in response to that vision.

              There is no preference in citation formatting, but references must be formatted uniformly and correctly. Just linking sources is not acceptable.

              Teams are welcome to make any design choices that they believe are justifiable, if good rationale is provided.

              Appendices, which can be used for references, are not included in the 5-7 page limit. The 5-7 pages are for the body of the technical paper. See the Competition Guidelines for more details.

              Use appendices for citations and references only. Judges are not required to review material included in your appendices. As such, be sure no information vital to your design concept or its justification is included in the appendices. You may include citations, calculations or other information you think judges may find interesting, but be sure it’s not integral to your project before putting it in an appendix.

              Yes and No. Teams must conduct research on the types of future aviation markets, airplane designs, fuels, etc. that are already being discussed and/or considered. Make some assumptions (based on this research) about the 2050s aviation landscape and design the external elements of an airport to accommodate those changes.

              Yes, if the team size limit of 6 total members is not exceeded.

              Yes. However, submitting an NOI form at your earliest convenience is in your best interest.  Once we have contact information for the team lead and faculty advisor, we can ensure you are kept updated on any changes or provide you with helpful resources. Submitting an NOI also benefits NASA: it helps us know how many technical papers to expect so that we have the appropriate number of reviewers lined up to judge the submissions.

              Start asking professors if they are willing to serve as your team’s advisor. Each team MUST have an eligible US citizen faculty advisor listed at the time of the Technical Paper Submission.

              Role of Faculty Advisor: Faculty advisors take on the role as mentors, and if a team is selected as a finalist, help manage any monetary awards sent to the university, ensuring they are disbursed appropriately (according to your university’s protocols) to enable the team’s full participation in the Forum at NASA Langley Research Center next June. The student team leader and advisor will also jointly receive email updates and reminders about the competition to disburse to the rest of the team.

              Yes. The primary advisor must be from your university and be able to handle financial awards on behalf of your team, according to university protocols. However, teams may also have additional faculty serve as mentors from other universities.

              A faculty advisor may be a legal permanent resident (i.e. Green Card holder). If they are a U.S. Citizen or a legal permanent resident, we are allowed to send funds to the university on their behalf.

              Legal permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) may participate in the competition, but would be not be eligible to receive the competition prize (NASA internships).

              Yes. Upon selection, all finalist teams will be provided with specific directions for applying to the Blue Skies internships.

              There are no specific locations for the NASA internships. They may be located across the country at a variety of NASA centers, depending on factors that will be determined with finalist and winning teams later in the competition.

              Internships will be input into the NASA NIFS internship database once finalists are selected. They will be titled or otherwise denoted as “Blue Skies Finalists Only.” These will be internships for which finalists may apply, and finalists will receive specific directions on how to do so. Once the Blue Skies Forum takes place and the six winners are announced, we will work with the winners to determine strengths and interests and link them with opportunities at the NASA Centers to create a good match.

              If a winning team has six members that are all interested and eligible for the NASA internship, all six would receive invitations to intern. However, if the winning team doesn’t have six members, there may be an opportunity to open more internship slots to members of other finalist teams. Allotments will be determined at program management discretion toward the end of the competition timeline.

              A team member who has a GPA lower than 3.0 may participate in the Blue Skies Competition. There is no GPA requirement for the competition itself. The 3.0 GPA requirement is for NASA internships only: An applicant must have a 3.0 or higher to be eligible – there are no exceptions to this rule for NASA internships.

              Yes, if student is enrolled in the team’s college/university. Participants under age 18 at the time of the Forum must be accompanied by a parent/guardian. Individuals under 18 years may not be eligible for the competition prize (NASA internship).

              Up to 8 finalist teams will be selected following the Technical Paper, Infographic, and Video submission. These teams will be invited to participate in the Blue Skies Forum in Hampton, VA.

              An abstract is not a requirement for your technical paper and should not be included. Teams will be asked to summarize their concepts in 500 words or less on the submission form. This is for internal use.