Can Bright Minds Brought Together on a Plane Solve Tech Talent Woes?

    Though it could turn out to be a new version of “Snakes on a Plane,” 130 people set off Wednesday on a 12-hour flight from San Francisco to London, during which time they planned to focus on STEM education and tech’s talent shortages.

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    The flight, part of British Airways’ “UnGrounded” initiative, carried among its passengers 100 Silicon Valley emissaries, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Cassidy Williams, who just finished her junior year at Iowa State, reports

    Passengers were split into four teams: one focused on the lack of women in tech, one on meeting U.S. tech talent demand, one focused on expanding STEM education, and a fourth on fostering more tech in emerging countries, according to Business Insider.

    Fred Dust, a partner at design firm IDEO, said many of its ideas for fostering creativity among participants, most of whom were strangers, had to be scrapped. He told

    “We had so many ideas of what we were going to do with this plane, little of which actually ended up being possible.”

    There are limits to what can be done in so little space, though members of the Philadelphia Orchestra recently showed that being stuck on the tarmac doesn’t have to totally suck. (Side note: Where does one stow a cello on board?)

    On the “UnGrounded” flight, though, safety restrictions nixed whiteboards in the bulkheads and beanbags in the aisles. And there was no on-board Wi-Fi, just to keep everyone’s attention on the task at hand.

    The best four ideas to come out of the flight are to be presented Friday to the head of the International Telecommunication Union, which advises the United Nations on IT, and at a couple of upcoming summits.

    Iowa State student Williams, a software development intern at Intuit this summer, told that she wanted to do this as soon as she heard about it:

    ”Working with leaders in a small space to make something to change the world? Sounds incredible.”

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