Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce you to the innovative, bold, and talented individuals competing in GoFly. Our teams come from all over the world, shaped by their diverse backgrounds and unique life experiences. We can’t wait to see what they’ll build, but in the meantime, get to know the people behind the devices.
Bruce Springsteen longingly sang, “Baby, we were born to run.”
For Ben Sena & Soojae Jung, captains of Team JAYU, based at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the words “Baby, we were born to fly” would be more apt.
Indeed, Ben grew up in Winthrop, MA, “a stone’s skip across an inlet from Logan Airport (Boston) and just under the glide path for runway 27.” His Little League coaches’ pleas to “pay attention” to the game were “no match for roaring turbofans…If I wasn’t chasing a butterfly to admire its carefree flutter then I was watching the planes, wondering where everyone was going and what it was like to fly through a cloud.”
He daydreamed of the wind rippling through his shirt as he flew somewhere new to explore and his night dreams almost always defied gravity.
Soojae’s dreams similarly involved taking to the skies…and even beyond. When he was young he watched a space launch. He thought it was so cool and wanted to be a part of something like that. “I dreamt to be an astronaut,” he relates.
Realizing that could be a difficult and uncertain path in life, Soojae found another way to pursue his passion for aviation. He decided to become an engineer, so he could build “the Herculean devices that make incredible feats a reality.” He has since worked on myriad air vehicles and “GoFly is another journey for me to engage with the aviation world.”
That interest in engineering didn’t come out of the sky, however. It came from his grandfather, who grew up during the Depression and made sure that he could fix anything he could because there was no money to buy new. In particular, he had a hobby of fixing old bicycles. “Anything with two wheels he saw in the trash ended up in his basement workshop,” Soojae recalls. “Whenever I needed a new bike, I would have my pick from his collection, lined up along the basement walls, hanging from the ceiling, and invading the backyard shed. I would spend most of my afternoons at his place, learning to fix chains, tires, brakes, and anything else that was a little loose or worn.”
That strong foundation in engineering, combined with his passion for flying, led to Soojae taking an aerodynamics course during his junior year in college. It was a course that set him on his current life path because it helped him better understand the physics behind the airplane. This motivated him to pursue a graduate education focused in aircraft design, taking courses such as aeroelasticity, composites, helicopter dynamics, and others – all of which have all enriched his “flying-machine-making acumen.”
His — and Ben’s – acumen in this arena has propelled Team JAYU forward as they strive to conquer the GoFly Prize. Ben says that what excites them about the challenge is that it gives them an “unprecedented opportunity to impact an emerging industry catering to micro air transit. It has been our life-long passions to bring to market a beloved and elegant design for such a device. We believe that GoFly is a stage where we can put our ideas in the spotlight.”