UTEP Awarded $1.1M NASA Cooperative Agreement to Develop Aerospace Manufacturing Workforce and Supply Chain
Last Updated on February 25, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published February 25, 2020
By UC Staff
The University of Texas at El Paso's NASA MIRO Center for Space and Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) has significantly enhanced opportunities for UTEP engineering students through a new cooperative agreement with NASA that will benefit 23 UTEP graduate and undergraduate students and provide internships at NASA centers for six of them.
“This is another example of UTEP being at the forefront in catalyzing a technology-driven and engineering talent integrated economy for El Paso,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president for strategic initiatives and cSETR’s founder and director. “We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with NASA and our regional economic development stakeholders through this program.”
During the last two decades, domestic manufacturing sectors that support the complex supply chain needs for U.S. aerospace and defense industries have been shrinking. A critical challenge for aerospace and defense sectors is the shortage of high-skill and middle-skill workforce for the export-controlled and classified manufacturing environment. This presents a national security concern and threatens America's global competitiveness.
UTEP is one of three universities that will be supported by this new NASA program designed to provide the education and experience needed to help address manufacturing needs in the U.S. aerospace sector. The other participating institutions are Tuskegee University and Virginia State University. Funding from the program will be used for curriculum-based learning, research, training, internships and apprenticeships to meet the growing demand for expertise in high-volume aerospace manufacturing. UTEP will strategically partner with Western Technical College for the broader implementation of this new initiative.
“We are proud to support the aerospace and defense ecosystem in El Paso through this partnership with UTEP,” said Brad Kuykendall, CEO of Western Technical College. “Our aerospace and defense technology program provides jobs for veterans and the middle-skill workforce in the region.”
This new program also will include an entrepreneurship component connected with the newly developed UTEP cSETR-Horizon City Aerospace and Defense Small Business Incubator.
“Winning this federal support is tremendously impactful for our region, and it proves that connecting with the talent and ideas emerging from The University of Texas at El Paso and Western Technical College is invaluable,” said Michael Hernandez, executive director of the Horizon City Economic Development Corporation. “Supporting that regional synergy is exciting to us, and it’s why we recently launched an aerospace-focused business accelerator with UTEP cSETR that’s fueling entrepreneurship for our brightest engineers and growing a community of innovators that will strengthen our economy.”
“I’m excited to see the progress of these three institutions as they work for the next two years on moving the idea of supply chain management to the fore,” said Karen Rugg, NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate lead for communications/STEM engagement. “I’m impressed with strategies they already have in place, especially their focus on involving students.”
The new NASA-backed initiative is the most recent example of how UTEP, in partnership with aerospace and defense industries (Lockheed Martin Corp.), regional stakeholders (the City of El Paso, Horizon City, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and El Paso Chamber of Commerce) and small businesses (METI Inc., Protech Global Solution and IDA Technology Inc.) is leading regionwide efforts to create an aerospace and defense manufacturing ecosystem in the Southwest.
“This is an important and proactive opportunity to continue building a talent pipeline and strengthening our manufacturing ecosystem across our community,” said Jessica Herrera, director of economic development for the City of El Paso.
cSETR is a NASA-funded aerospace engineering and technology research center at UTEP. cSETR maintains extensive partnerships with members of the aerospace and defense industries, and with federal agencies. The center has trained and placed more than 400 engineers in the aerospace and defense industries throughout the last 10 years. cSETR provides “end-to-end” capabilities for components to systems-level development and test and evaluation of aerospace hardware and software, as well as cooperative professional education and training services.