Award for Better Way to Handle Baggage

Three mechanical engineering undergraduates and their faculty mentor receive first prize in a Transportation Research Board competition addressing airport needs

Waiting for your suitcase to show up at the airport baggage carousel is a frustrating experience, but a group of Tufts students is on the case. They designed a new approach to speed up baggage handling and won first place in the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs.

Held by the TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program, the competition encouraged students to design innovative, practical solutions to challenges faced by American airports in the areas of airport operation and maintenance; runway safety, incursions and excursions; airport environmental interactions; and airport management and timing.

Erick Garcia, Gary Leisk, Nicholas Nopprapun and Noah Kagan, after hearing the news about their award. Erick Garcia, Gary Leisk, Nicholas Nopprapun and Noah Kagan, after hearing the news about their award.
Recent School of Engineering graduates Nicholas Nopprapun, E17, Erick Garcia, E17, and Noah Kagan, E17, won in the airport operation and maintenance category for their semi-automated Baggage Hygiene Monitoring System, designed to gather data on the size, shape, weight and position of bags on the conveyor belt and provide that data to workers, who can then adjust the bags. According to the team, proper “bag hygiene,” or orientation of bag on the belt, can prevent 60-90 percent of baggage jamming.

“They latched onto a very interesting problem, which very few people are aware is a problem,” said the team’s advisor, Gary Leisk, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The team spoke with baggage handling officials at Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, where they tested an alpha prototype of the system.

Leisk and the team presented their work and received their award in Washington, D.C., at the end of July. “The students and I are hopeful that there will be interest in pursuing the next steps on the implementation side of things,” Leisk said.

Monica Jimenez can be reached at

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