Nick Bartolotta's life is one that could be described as up in the air--literally. Having lived in Japan for eight years and studied in Barcelona, Spain, the Staples High School alumnus is now continuing his high-flying trajectory as a junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Dayota Beach, Fla.

Last month, Bartolotta embarked on the latest leg of his ongoing world tour when he and two other Embry-Riddle students traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to participate in a "case challenge" competition to design a social media concept for the German airliner Lufthansa.

Of 130 teams from 30 countries that originally entered the competition, Bartolotta's team was one of just six to make it to the final stage in Frankfurt, where they presented their concept to a panel of the airline's top management and aviation experts.

The Embry-Riddle team's proposal focused on three objectives for Lufthansa's use of social media: advancing brand loyalty, creating value for customers, and recruiting and retaining employees.

Bartolotta's team placed third out of the six finalists. Upon returning to the U.S., he spoke with the Westport News about his trip to Germany.

What was it like to present your social media concept?

It was really exciting to present to the judges, especially since the panel consisted of people from Lufthansa and the EBS Business School. EBS Business School is a university in Germany focusing on business and law, and they were essentially running the case challenge along with Lufthansa, so there were a few professors from their school.

There were many members from Lufthansa, ranging from sales, pricing, HR, and of course, marketing. One member was also a commercial director at Facebook, and he gave the keynote speech at the initial case challenge dinner when we arrived. In all, there were ten judges, and we had the chance to interact with all of them before and after our presentations.

How did your aviation education help you in the competition?

Coming from a university with such a strong aviation focus allowed us to come into the competition already understanding a lot about how the industry operates - especially in using social media - and where the industry can expand its role. Since all three of us on the team are extraordinarily passionate about aviation, it was uniquely exciting for us to have this opportunity to work with such a world-class brand like Lufthansa.

Our university professors were so supportive of us as well. One of our professors is German and has lived in Germany, so she helped us by giving tips on how to present in Germany. Having our professors' support was instrumental in building our confidence before presenting.

How will social media influence the future of the aviation industry?

Social media is not a fad, it's not something that will come and go with my generation of `digital natives.' Companies must learn to embrace social media as a new medium in communication, marketing, sales, and recruitment.

Those in the aviation industry know how things can change faster than any other industry-- this industry is more dynamic than the weather. Being able to influence your company's brand in the midst of such insecurity is so key-- it's a matter of survival. Airlines, aerospace manufacturers, and even airports have already come a long way in developing the social media components of their businesses, but they need to keep pace with this emerging medium.

How will this experience help your own career in aviation?

My participation in the case challenge will greatly help me in my career endeavors. It's given me excellent experience in presenting to people in a multi-cultural setting, and has given me a lot of insight into how an airline views social media.

What is the city of Frankfurt like?

The city is much less `touristy' than other cities; in fact it's a major banking and finance city. So while there were a lot of skyscrapers, there weren't too many attractions around the city. Even so, it was nice to finally relax and still see some sights around Frankfurt - especially after we were all exhausted from a grueling month of preparing for our presentation. It's an interesting city, but doesn't hold the same allure as some of the other cities in Germany, notably Berlin or Munich.