OSUís Aerospace Institute reaching for local stars

Published: Thursday, August 19, 2021 By: Kathryn McNutt Source: The Journal Record

Oklahoma State University announced the formation of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education at a news conference Wednesday at OSU’s new building in Oklahoma City’s Innovation District.

The announcement represents a “doubling down of OSU’s commitment to excellence and leadership in aerospace, a key sector of Oklahoma’s business and economic future,” said Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research.

The new institute is housed at OSU Discovery – a research, development and education facility that Baker Hughes donated to the university to develop a learning space to benefit both students and industry professionals.

“This facility brings industry and academic experts under one roof, creating experiential learning opportunities for OSU students and supporting researchers in applying technology-driven solutions for a wide range of business sectors,” said OSU President Kayse Shrum.

“Oklahoma State University offers a complete turnkey solution for Oklahoma’s aerospace industry needs,” Shrum said. “From K-12 enrichment and workforce development, through faculty and graduate research, to groundbreaking innovation in industry partnerships, we are leading the state to advance this important economic engine.”

The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education in Oklahoma City, along with OSU’s facilities in Tulsa and Stillwater, will connect with industry partners to provide a seamless pipeline for future engineers and innovations, she said.

Shrum said more than 1,500 K-12 students attended a STEM camp hosted by OSU this summer.

“That’s just the beginning,” she said. “Through STEM education partnerships, our state will inspire and engage young minds to show them what is possible. Whether they want to become rocket scientists, teachers, engineers, mathematicians or airplane pilots, we want to encourage them to literally reach for the stars.”

Aerospace or aeronautical engineering courses have been a part of OSU for 93 years, said Paul Tikalsky, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

“Our contracts with the military, commercial and K-12 education continue to grow,” Tilkalsky said, adding OSU will have more than $80 million under contract this year related to aerospace and aerospace education in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Stillwater.

OSU currently is teaching more than 500 undergraduate students in aerospace engineering and another 1,000 in related fields, he said.

“The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education is part of the next generation of OSU and Oklahoma’s growing economy,” Tilkalsky said.

Cecilia Robinson-Woods, superintendent of Millwood Public Schools, said the new institute will ensure school districts can train teachers to prepare students for postsecondary STEM education and will give students opportunities to be exposed to careers in aerospace, engineering and other STEM fields “so our kids can see what it is they could have in the future.”

“One of our biggest concerns is always jobs and how we prepare – especially underserved communities in some of the school districts that are around the Innovation District – how do we help our community achieve high-paying jobs in the future,” Robinson-Woods said.

“I think it’s paramount that being located here in the Innovation District that we focus on surrounding school districts that service a population that wouldn’t always have access to these types of jobs,” she said. “We look forward to preparing tomorrow’s workforce with our kids from surrounding districts.”

This story originally ran on the JournalRecord.com. 

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