Tuskegee, AL — The U.S. Department of Defense has launched an Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center (AERIC) at Alabama’s Tuskegee University, enhancing research in critical areas and expanding the future technical talent pipeline for the industry.
In an announcement, the DOD said Tuskegee’s 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.
The research center is being established at an institution that was home to the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces. The DOD also noted that Tuskegee University is the No. 1 producer of Black aerospace engineers in the nation.
The program is being established by the DOD’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)). It’s made possible by $2 million in funding sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Department of Defense’s Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center at Tuskegee University will advance research in critical areas and expand the talent pipeline for the industry.
“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,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, director of the Office of Research, Technology, and Laboratories in OUSD(R&E).
“This center will spark an even greater level of innovation in the state’s dynamic aerospace industry. ”
AERIC is devoted to expanding the future aerospace technical workforce with a particular focus on underrepresented populations in the United States. Its objective is to help fill the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline.
“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,” Dr. Pamulapati said.
“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,” he added.
The funding is awarded through DOD’s historically Black college and university (HBCU) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) Research and Education Program.
Located in Tuskegee University’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 DOD industries.
In addition to partnering with DOD, Tuskegee’s AERIC will collaborate with Wichita State University, Boeing, Huntsville-based Dynetics, and Chevron to advance the center’s research and education agenda.
“The addition of the DOD research center at Tuskegee University’s Aerospace Science Engineering Department will influence the industry for generations to come, much like the courageous Tuskegee Airmen did for the military decades ago,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“This center will spark an even greater level of innovation in the state’s dynamic aerospace industry,” he added.
The Aerospace Science Engineering Department at Tuskegee University is an accredited program started in 1983 that offers a Bachelor of Science degree. Tuskegee University is the first and only historically black institution of higher learning to offer an accredited bachelor’s degree program in this field.
The program’s graduates are working with the U.S. Armed Forces, government agencies and the aerospace industry. Faculty members work on sponsored research projects in aerodynamics, flight simulation, fluid mechanics, propulsion, composites, non-destructive testing, structural dynamics, design, and computational fluid dynamics.
Words by Jerry Underwood