Pentagon launches Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center at Tuskegee University
The Department of Defense (DoD) this week announced the launch of the Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center (AERIC) at Macon County’s Tuskegee University. According to a release, the center will support undergraduate research in materials and aerospace sciences relevant to the defense and aerospace sectors.
AERIC’s launch was funded by a $2 million appropriations measure sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense.
In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Thursday, Shelby said, “I am proud that this funding has been secured for the Department of Defense Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center at Tuskegee University. The selection of Tuskegee University for the establishment of this center is great news, particularly due to the renowned history of the Tuskegee Airmen, and will expand the aerospace technical workforce in the region through research and educational opportunities.”
The DoD’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) is overseeing the project, which was directly awarded through the DoD historically black college and university (HBCU) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) Research and Education Program.
“Established at an institution that was the home of the Tuskegee Airmen and is now the No. 1 producer of Black aerospace engineers in the nation, AERIC is devoted to expanding the future aerospace technical workforce with a particular focus on underrepresented populations in the United States,” the Pentagon release stated. “To help fill the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline, AERIC will support two-year research projects in the areas of fatigue damage tolerance, experimental aerodynamics, and the performance of materials and components under extreme environmental conditions.”
Housed by Tuskegee’s Engineering Department, AERIC is positioned to grow the DoD aerospace technical workforce through speaker series with DoD staff and summer internship placements at defense laboratories, ultimately preparing scholars for careers in critical defense industries. In addition to partnering with DoD, AERIC will collaborate with Wichita State University, Boeing, Dynetics and Chevron to further the center’s research and education agenda.
Dynetics is headquartered in Huntsville, and Boeing also has a huge presence in Alabama.
“The establishment of centers of excellence plays a vital role in our defense enterprise by stimulating research and innovation for the next generation of STEM leaders,” commented Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, director of the Office of Research, Technology, and Laboratories in OUSD(R&E). “Notably, beyond conducting research that enhances our ability to respond to threats and remain technologically superior, HBCUs serve the nation by educating a significant number of talented scientists and engineers. By supporting HBCUs and MSIs, we are cultivating a research enterprise that broadens idea sharing while expanding the pool of reliable STEM professionals able to meet both our mission and our workforce objectives.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn