Aviation to aerospace: ECSU receives grant for a new program

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program received the green light from NASA to start a new program focusing on aerospace technology and community impact, which could also have an impact on Beaufort County students.

The school hosted an ACE (Aviation Career Education) Academy earlier this summer and several Beaufort County students were chosen to participate.

According to a press release, NASA is granting money to nine universities as part of its Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). ECSU is expected to receive $347,384 for a three-year period for the project.

Al Powell, president of the Beaufort County Police Activities League, which covered the funds for 10 local students to attend the ACE Academy, said he thinks the aerospace program may be geared toward an afterschool program rather than a summer camp.

He said the university’s reception of the grant is fairly new, so there are still a lot of logistics that have yet to be worked out.

The academy will include a variety of options for exploring math, science and aerospace technology, including a mobile Aerospace Education Laboratory, a tool for community outreach which will have a flight simulator, design station, 3-D printers, mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robots and GPS and radio, according to the release.

“ECSU’s MUREP Aerospace Academy (MAA) project will promote STEM literacy, prepare and encourage students, especially underserved and underrepresented populations from northeastern North Carolina, to pursue college degrees,” ECSU Chancellor Stacey Franklin Jones stated in the release. “This community-focused project provides an additional avenue and further strengthens our commitment to serve the region.”

Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, director of ECSU’s aviation science program and also involved in the aviation academy, said in the press release that the portable laboratory is a good way to bring the technology to the communities, and the program will include an interactive Family Café forum to reach out to the parents as well.

During this summer’s ACE Academy, participants were exposed to the world of aerospace, as they took a trip to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and participated in rocket launch competitions.

Powell said he expects to talk with the university in the coming weeks to find out more information about the aerospace program and if it would be a good opportunity for Beaufort County students.

“I don’t know what impact it will have on us,” Powell said. “It remains to be seen how Elizabeth City (State University) is going to use that money.”