Woodstock students have plan to reduce airplane bird strikes

They are called the Backstreet Birds and their mission is to reduce bird strikes on airplanes. Studies have shown bird strikes cost more than a billion dollars worldwide.

The students are smart, driven middle schoolers from suburban Woodstock and they're making us Chicago Proud.

Meet Northwood Middle School's Backstreet Birds -- a collection of gifted kids who worked after school and on weekends all year to win a statewide science competition.

Their punchy, five minute presentation showcased how birds see and why painting red chevrons on airplanes will help birds avoid death and keep planes safe.

Remember US Airways Flight 1549? A bird strike forced it to land in the Hudson River.

On Thursday, United Airlines heard the students pitch after the Backstreet Birds' work was published in the World Ecology Report, and received invitations to present at the United Nations and U.S. Department of Education.

"They became entirely invested in what they were trying to promote once they found out they could see the science behind it and the impact on aviation," said Gigi Carlson, the teacher and coach of the Backstreet Birds.

United staff seemed impressed.

"Any time you come up with ways to problem solve those issues, I think it is great," said Boeing 777 First Officer Julie Savage.

"I would say this is a continuation of what we do and particularly with [United's] Eco-Skies brand," said Angela Foster-Rice, managing director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for United Airlines.

So as the students got a tour of United Airlines Network Operations Center where every United flight is tracked in real time, the question is, how long might it be before red-bellied airplanes are everywhere?

"I think it will be soon enough," said Northwood Middle School student Samantha Keyzer.

"It is kind of nerve-wracking, it is just like wow," said student Erin Bigler.

How did the students handle it all?

"The team is pretty close so we just help each other through it," said Bigler.

"We want to be able to look back someday and see the red chevron stripes on the airplane," said Julian Anquiano.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most elegant.
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