OSU, drone contractor launch internship program

Published: Tuesday, July 7, 2020 By: Oklahoma Department of Commerce Source: Staff Reports

A new internship program at Oklahoma State University’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) is taking flight.

Navatek, a leader in innovative research and development services for the Department of Defense, NASA and other government agencies, has awarded a $25,000 research grant to support up to 12 student internships that will run from June to Aug. 15. The interns will consist of high school and undergraduate students at USRI at OSU as part of their Engineering Development Program. These students will have the opportunity to work on projects at USRI’s lab, EXCELSIOR, as well as Navatek’s new Stillwater office and various other locations on the OSU campus. These projects will focus on development and testing of new technologies for unmanned aircraft systems and related technologies.

“Due to the number of canceled internships because of the pandemic, we had a number of bright and talented students looking for something impactful to do,” said USRI Director Dr. Jamey Jacob. “Having the ability to support these creative students with training on timely projects helps keep the STEM pipeline flowing which will be critical to the future aerospace and high-tech workforce of Oklahoma.”

The high school students chosen for the internships come from various high schools throughout Oklahoma, including Stillwater, Del City and Sand Springs. Five of the undergraduate students have transitioned from USRI’s previous high school intern program including one national merit winner, Nicco Wang, and two finalists, Daniel Tikalsky and Omar Abouzahr, all of Stillwater.

“Some of these future OSU grads will have inevitably moved out of state to enter the workforce. Now they can remain in Oklahoma and support cutting edge [Department of Defense] unmanned aerospace work, right here in Stillwater.

“The partnership between Navatek and OSU will increase OSU’s aerospace engineering visibility with direct sponsorships of internships and cooperative research programs. Attracting undergraduate interns will expose them to OSU’s nationally recognized UAS research and dedicated UAS graduate engineering program, thus creating a conduit for quality graduate students at OSU,” said Dr. Rick Gaeta, Navatek’s director of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) R&D.

“We see this relationship as a total win-win for both OSU and Navatek” said Gary Ambrose, Navatek chief operating officer, who is based in Stillwater. “We can now sponsor engineering research directly into OSU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI); while providing a direct hiring path for engineering graduates; retaining them for high paying and hi-tech jobs locally in Stillwater.”

Both Gaeta and Ambrose have deep ties to OSU. Gaeta has been assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and

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