Oklahoma State University blasting off to the forefront of aerospace innovation

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma State University is setting its sight on the stars.

University officials were on hand at OSU DISCOVERY in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, announcing their plans to build the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE), a facility that will work toward fostering aerospace industry growth in the state and beyond.

OSU seeks to drive collaborations and innovations across the aerospace industry, said OSU President Kayse Shrum.

Shrum touted OSU as Oklahoma’s aerospace leader.

“Oklahoma State University offers a complete turnkey solution for Oklahoma’s aerospace industry needs. From K-12 enrichment and workforce development, through faculty and graduate research to groundbreaking innovations in industry partnerships, we are leading the state to advance this important economic engine,” Shrum said. “Today, we’re announcing the formation of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education. Oklahoma State University is the clear leader in aerospace within our state. We’ve had a partnership with NASA for more than 50 years. We’ve been training pilots for more than 80 years. Our depth and breadth of knowledge, faculty and research investments cannot be matched. We’re so proud of this very long history in aerospace and aviation excellence.”

Photo goes with story
Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum speaks to a crowd at the unveiling of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education at OSU DISCOVER in Oklahoma City.

Goals for OAIRE are as follows:

  • Synergizing Oklahoma’s aerospace innovation economy;
  • Supporting ongoing and future partnerships between university, commercial, military and government agencies;
  • Becoming a valuable resource for developing Oklahoma’s aerospace ecosystem, which includes generating high-tech jobs and cutting-edge research that brings commercial enterprise and military sustainment support to the state;
  • Creating K-12 outreach programs that facilitate STEM connections, build an Oklahoma aerospace workforce pipeline and promote community involvement.

By seamlessly connecting OSU to aerospace industry and K-12 partners, OAIRE will elevate OSU’s aerospace leadership role in Oklahoma and inspire future aviators and engineers while enhancing opportunities for industry and defense partners in Oklahoma, according to Shrum.

Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation Elizabeth Pollard said the innovation OAIRE will pursue is critically important to the state’s future economy.

“The Oklahoma economy is at an inflection point. Disruptive technology is changing the face of every industry and forcing all states to reassess how best to compete and remain relevant in a knowledge-based innovation economy,” Pollard said. “Innovation is the key driver to economic growth and prosperity. It is critically important to Oklahoma’s future. It will grow and diversify our state economy, accelerate our state’s competitiveness and create large-scale, high-paying jobs for Oklahomans.”

Pollard said OSU is making a great contribution to Oklahoma’s aerospace industry.

“The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education will be at the forefront of innovation in the aerospace realm, and I commend Oklahoma State University for their successful programs and continued partnerships with the state,” Pollard said. “Prominent research and development activity related to aerospace has been underway for decades at OSU and with their leadership in this dynamic industry, Oklahoma will be well-positioned to lead the ever-evolving aerospace frontier. The state of Oklahoma has significant research and development strengths, and with OSU’s leadership, the vision to emerge as a leading region for growth in the autonomous systems and aerospace industry is imminent.” 

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Elizabeth Pollard, Oklahoma’s secretary of science and innovation, speaks at the unveiling of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education at OSU DISCOVER in Oklahoma City.

Industry demand has made aviation one of the fastest growing programs at OSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences.

The OAIRE initiative includes expanding aerospace research and course offerings at OSU DISCOVERY and in Tulsa at the Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center.

“This will allow students greater access to OSU’s undergraduate and graduate programs, which will be tailored to meet the needs of the aerospace sector in the surrounding area. Professionals seeking aerospace-related degrees can take aerospace or systems engineering core courses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa or Stillwater,” OSU officials said.

OAIRE’s K-12 school programming will include technical training, career placement and entrepreneurial opportunities for student engagement and retention, and will prioritize outreach to Native American and other underrepresented K-12 students in an effort to develop and retain the talent pipeline for Oklahoma-based companies, according to OSU officials.

Paul Tikalsky, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, said OSU will spend $80 million on aerospace and aerospace education this year.

“OSU is the first aerospace program in the state and twice the size of any other,” said Tikalsky. “We continue to expand our faculty and research operations and are now teaching more than 500 undergraduates in just aerospace engineering and another 1,000 in related fields. OSU brings expertise to industry partners in everything from advanced propulsion systems to avionics, unmanned systems, aerostructures, cybersecurity, re-engineering, airfield design, human factors, pilot training and much more. The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education is part of the next generation of OSU and Oklahoma’s growing economy.”

OAIRE’s aerospace and defense research and education efforts will be powered by the following resources:

  • Novel design tools
  • The new Ray and Linda Booker OSU Flight Center
  • Airfield for aerospace testing
  • Rapid prototyping platforms
  • High-performance computational center 
  • 28 faculty members across a wide-array of expertise in aerospace and aviation
  • Research engineers and graduate researchers
  • K-12 teacher training programs and summer STEM camps.

OSU officials provided the following information on the university’s work in aerospace and aviation:

Aerospace

  • 50-plus years, OSU has worked on projects for NASA.
  • 62%is how much OSU’s aerospace engineering enrollment has grown over the last 10 years. 
  • 70% of the state’s aerospace engineering degrees are from OSU.
  • 500-plus students are enrolled and 80-plus graduate annually from OSU’s aerospace engineering program. 
  • $5.2 million has gone into the NASA WINDMAP University Leadership Initiative team led by OSU to develop weather monitoring and forecasting for advanced air mobility.
  • $16.7 million in research has been done by OAIRE engineering faculty h in the past three years.
  • $33.8 millionin ongoing aerospace engineering related research awards and more than $4.8 million in aviation research and education related awards have gone to OAIRE faculty.
  • OSU leads NASA’s Oklahoma Space Grant and NASA educational programs, such as NASA’s Native Earth/Native Sky program aimed at tribal students and the NSPACE program, which provides competitive and innovative STEM educational opportunities to K-16 students and educators across the country.
  • OSU has a special agreement with PSA Airlines, which gives students a direct path to American Airlines through the PSA Cadet Program. 

Aviation 

  • 1935 is when the Civilian Pilot Training Program opened at Oklahoma A&M College, kicking off a long aviation tradition.
  • 1948 saw the founding of the nationally recognized Flying Aggies, a student flying club founded by former World War II pilot Hoyt Walkup.
  • 11,600square feet is the space available in the new Ray and Linda Booker OSU Flight Center. It includes spaces for individual flight debriefings, offices, student common areas, dispatch and more. 
  • In 2019, OSU aviation was selected for the Top Hawk program, a partnership with Textron Aviation that provides students with access to the Cessna Skyhawk.
  • OSU is home to the historic and nationally recognized Flying Aggies, a student flying club founded in 1948 by former World War II pilot Hoyt Walkup. 

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