UTEP Opens Digital Engineering Facility at NASA Johnson Space Center
New Aerospace Center outpost trains students, NASA engineers in the emerging field of digital engineering
El Paso, Texas (June 1, 2023) - The University of Texas at El Paso will now have a home at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, thanks to a new agreement with NASA. At a joint ribbon-cutting event today in both Houston and El Paso, UTEP and NASA formally announced the operation of a Digital Engineering Design Center (DEDC) — run by UTEP — at the Johnson Space Center. Individuals who work in the space will focus on pioneering NASA missions like establishing human settlements on the moon.
“Building strong partnerships with agencies like NASA is one of the best ways to develop needed talent,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “While we meet the needs of employers in our region, with close partners like NASA, geography isn’t a limitation. I look forward to learning from and potentially expanding this on-site training and education model.”
Digital Engineering is the process of using computing and software tools to accelerate and improve the design, production, testing, evaluation, modification and maintenance of systems. Digital engineering can speed up the process of systems design, reduce unnecessary expense and allow for more seamless collaboration between engineers. It also significantly reduces the cost of maintaining systems over the long term. As a result, aerospace and defense enterprises nationwide are increasing use of digital engineering as an important tool for system development.
“We are so very grateful for this opportunity to work with NASA and the Johnson Space Center — and that the space industry is recognizing our ability to transform the nature of engineering while at the same time broadening the pool of people entering the aerospace workforce,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president of the Aerospace Center. “We are excited and proud to see the rapid growth of Aerospace Center into the major research organization it is today.”
UTEP engineering faculty Md Mahamudur Rahman, Ph.D., and Afroza Shirin, PhD., will lead the DEDC at NASA. The DEDC will hire talented students from underserved areas in the Houston community to work towards NASA’s goal of establishing permanent settlements on the moon. The project-based, hands-on learning experience is designed to teach students in-demand digital engineering skills.
Seven student researchers from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and The University of Texas at Tyler are already working at the DEDC; five new students will be hired this summer. Similar models of skills development through research are already in place at digital engineering design centers run by UTEP’s Aerospace Center in El Paso, Texas, Youngstown, Ohio and Huntsville, Alabama.
Sustainable moon colonies will need to rely on lunar resources to build and fuel themselves. To prepare for this challenge, the Johnson Space Center DEDC team will work to design an entirely digital production system that can transform lunar surface material into oxygen for use as rocket fuel. The digital representation will go through design, integration and testing to ultimately help sustain human bases on the moon and other worlds.
In addition to working with students, UTEP Aerospace Center engineers will train two NASA engineers as the agency seeks to further integrate the digital engineering paradigm into its own design and development processes.
About The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving University. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.
Last Updated on June 01, 2023 at 12:00 AM | Originally published June 01, 2023
By MC Staff UTEP Marketing and Communications