Age: 18Lexington, KY
Project Title: The Virtual Winglet: A Novel Approach to Boundary Layer Manipulation and Wingtip Vortex Suppression
Inside every fighter jet, every passenger aircraft, every airplane, there is a pilot who risks their life to fly one of the newest forms of widespread transportation. The Virtual Winglet targets two major aerodynamic issues in a singular invention created not only for the costs it can diminish, not only for the emissions it can reduce, but for the people it can save. Consisting of interior tubing releasing high-speed air on the underside of the front-edge of the wingtip, the Virtual Winglet is targeted and energy-efficient. The novel ejection site location addresses two issues simultaneously: wing-tip vortex formation and flow separation- two of the most dangerous aspects of flow when it comes to flying a plane.
Science has always been my passion. Eventually, I branched out, in the absolute smallest way possible, and Science Fairs became my passion. Ever since fifth grade I’ve looked forward to the annual science fair with excitement and delight. In 8th grade I was invited to attend ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) as a student observer. I was so inspired by that event that I began conducting high-level research in my freshman year of high school and ended up designing and inventing my own wing for aircrafts. My passion then evolved into wanting to share my love of STEM with others, specifically young females. I am extremely honored to have been chosen as a Davidson Fellow. By being able to share my research and more importantly my story with such a large audience, I hope to inspire even one young female to dream big, just as I did.
My interest in aerodynamic research is as limitless as my imagination and the two combined have led me down a rich path of innovation and engineering. It all started with a single plane ride though. It was the 4th hour of our flight and everyone was either asleep or so focused on the third lap of Mario Kart that their eyes had glazed over. But something outside caught my attention: the GIANT WHITE STREAKS hovering above the wings. And as that simple condensation drew my fascination, and terror, I realized I had no idea how planes flew. Though my entire journey was kick-started by this not-so-near-death experience I perceived as imminent danger, it was really my years of research regarding wing-tip vortex formation that launched my design. Because of that flight, I ended up building my own wind tunnel, constructing my own flow tank, and inventing my own airplane wing. The design, which includes an internal plumbing system releasing high speed/low pressure air on the underside of the leading-edge of the wingtip, is called the Virtual Winglet and can provide on average 21.6% improvement for the lift-to-drag ratio of aircraft. Preliminary tests have shown that my design could not only make flying safer, especially during military operations for our soldiers, but also prevent the emission of millions of tons of carbon dioxide.
I worked largely independently with the overall guidance of my mentor. As I mentioned, I built my own wind tunnel and flow tank in my basement in order to test and further study my design. Most of my afternoons were dedicated to my research, as it is truly my passion in life. Overall, I have over 7,000 hours logged on aircraft and aviation research. I reap enjoyment from my project by not only working on it directly and making something that is my own, but also from the knowledge that the work I put forth may one day save someone’s life. And that knowledge is what makes missing my high school’s homecoming festivities (twice), or my best friends’ 16th and 18th birthday parties, or almost every single school dance all worth it.
I could recite statistics about the millions of people that fly every year and how widespread flying has become, but that in some ways detracts from the value of a human life, even a singular one. My research has the potential to save a life. I spent over 7,000 hours designing, testing, and modeling the Virtual Winglet in order to quantify its impact, which is not for nothing. Because of those hundreds of CFD runs, I have presented data numerous times that shows that the Virtual Winglet can improve the lift-to-drag ratio of an average military aircraft by 21.6% and prevent 112 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released every year. But out of all the science fair presentations and pitches I have given, the most meaningful took place at the Symposium for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. I ran through the numbers like I always did, but those didn’t matter to the Vietnam Veteran who stood before me. He paused a moment before thanking me for my research. Shouldn’t I be the one thanking him? He told me he feels hopeful for the future- for the pilots that will not have to worry about certain problems the way he had to. He said this will help protect the country, something he spent his life doing. And that’s the impact this research can have. On a singular life.
Though I have been studying aircraft for 5 years now, my research has made tremendous progress in the past 2 years. Students in the Math, Science, and Technology Center (MSTC) at my high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar, are required to conduct research during 11th and 12th grade; however, I chose to start my research early during my freshman year. When it comes down to it, I’m the airplane girl- I study airplane wings and engineer solutions to improve the fluid flow around them. I began the design and invention of my own wing design for aircrafts during my freshman year of high school based on the fundamental issues I had studied in the year previous. The design was fully realized, prototyped, and tested (in a wind tunnel, a flow tank, computer simulations, and real-world models) during my junior year of high school.
Because of my research, I was accepted into the 2018 Research Science Institute (a very prestigious 6-week summer research program that admitted only 51 U.S high school students out of thousands of applicants) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education. I attended lectures at MIT and worked at Aurora Flight Sciences (a subsidiary of Boeing). From there, I was named a Regeneron Science Talent Search 8th place winner, and even more importantly, selected as the Glenn T. Seaborg Award winner to serve as class spokesperson. I was recently awarded the Intel Young Scientist Award at the 2019 International Science and Engineering Fair. My greatest passion is inspiring young females to become more involved in STEM fields. I was the co-founder of a girls in STEM club at my school. As Director of Community Outreach I developed a program called STEMfems which offers workshops at local underprivileged elementary schools allowing me to share my love of STEM. Although I have a passion for STEM, I also greatly enjoyed being a member of my school’s Chamber Choir, French Club, and National Beta Club, as well as a member of the Girl Scouts of America since kindergarten. Hiking with my family and friends is also one of my favorite activities. All of these experiences have made it possible for me to attend Harvard University in the fall where I will be studying mechanical engineering and economics, with a plan to pursue policy in the future. I believe in dreaming big and plan to be the Secretary of Defense or Education one day.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In ten years, I’d love to see myself in a management position at a tech or science company, leading the people around me. But more importantly, I hope to see myself surrounded by family and starting one of my own.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
I’d love to have dinner with my role models: Raymond Wang, Nathan Chen, Fabiola Gianotti, my best friend Andy, and my sister Kyra
If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?Orange is the New Black just so that it would force them to have another season
In the News
Rachel Seevers to be Named a 2019 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Lexington, Ky. – The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Rachel Seevers of Lexington. Seevers won a $25,000 scholarship for her project, The Virtual Winglet: A Novel Approach to Boundary Layer Manipulation and Wingtip Vortex Suppression. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am extremely honored to have been chosen as a Davidson Fellow,” said Seevers. “By being able to share my research and more importantly my story with such a large audience, I hope to inspire even one young female to dream big, just as I did.”
Seevers’s project targets two major aerodynamic issues of air travel in a singular invention created not only to diminish costs and reduce emissions, but for the lives it can save. Consisting of interior tubing releasing high-speed air on the underside of the front-edge of the wingtip, the Virtual Winglet is targeted and energy-efficient. The novel ejection site location addresses two of the most dangerous aspects of flow when it comes to flying a plane.
Seevers was co-founder of her school’s girls in STEM club and developed a program called STEMfems which offers STEM workshops at local underprivileged elementary schools. Seevers was also a member of her school’s Chamber Choir, French Club, and National Beta Club, as well as a participant of the Girl Scouts of America since kindergarten. Outside of science she enjoys hiking with family and friends.
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Started in 1999, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a 501(c)3 private operating foundation. Our mission is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people ages 18 and under, and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.