NASA selects minority-serving institutions to advance aerospace manufacturing

NASA selects minority-serving institutions to advance aerospace manufacturing

Agency to provide almost $1.5 million to fund curriculum-based learning, research, training, internships, and apprenticeships.

November 2, 2019

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The Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) of NASA’s Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Engagement is partnering with the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to provide students at minority-serving institutions the education and experience needed to help address manufacturing needs in the U.S. aerospace sector.

The MUREP Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Cooperative will provide almost $1.5 million to fund curriculum-based learning, research, training, internships, and apprenticeships at three institutions to meet the growing demand for expertise and techniques in high-volume aerospace manufacturing.

For more than a decade, MUREP investments have enhanced the academic, research and technological capabilities of minority-serving institutions through multiyear grants. These institutions recruit and retain underrepresented and underserved students, including women, girls, veterans and persons with disabilities, into STEM fields.

During the next two years, these institutions will develop innovative opportunities for students to learn about designing and building aerospace parts using high-volume manufacturing practices, as well as supply chain management of those parts.

The selected institutions and their proposals are:

Tuskegee University (TU), Alabama Impact of Additive Manufacturing on Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management: Workforce Alignment through Research and Training
In recent years, the U.S. aerospace industry has struggled to meet the growing global demand for aircraft and parts, resulting in all-time-high order backlogs, unsustainable spare parts inventories, and lost opportunities for growth. TU will work with Bell Helicopter and NASA to accelerate the integration of 3D printing into high-volume aerospace manufacturing and supply chain management for helicopters and uncrewed aerial vehicles (drones).

Bell will identify critical helicopter parts and work with TU to develop a complete business case for the use of 3D printing in the manufacture of these parts – from analyses of current manufacturing and supply chain practices, to development of executable 3D manufacturing plans. In the drone track, TU teams will incorporate 3D printing into the design, build, and test phases of drone development to improve the functionality and performance of these aircraft. The work will be conducted in increments to allow for continuous assessment of the quality performance of 3D-printed parts.

University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Southwest Alliance for Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing and Talent Development
A critical challenge for U.S. aerospace and defense sectors is a shortage of employees skilled in the manufacturing of composites and printed circuit boards (PCBs). PCBs are fundamental to the operations of all aerospace systems including navigation, guidance and control, and communication systems.

UTEP is partnering with Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Army, and several regional stakeholders, to create a manufacturing ecosystem in the southwest that addresses this skill shortage. This partnership will provide curricula, internships, and apprenticeships through which students can gain active, hands-on experiential learning in the design and production of composites and PCBs.

Virginia State University (VSU), PetersburgDonor Materials Enabled High-Volume Friction Welding of Blisks
To date, high-volume manufacturing of a critical aircraft engine component has been unattainable due to the complexity of the component’s design and the manufacturing process. The part, called a blisk, combines rotor hub and blades and is manufactured simultaneously from a single material piece. These complexities have hindered competition, innovation, and workforce development in this area of U.S. manufacturing.

VSU will create a pilot program to advance research, education, and outreach to undergraduate and graduate students at VSU and Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia, focused on advancing on all fronts of manufacturing in this sector. This pilot program will identify educational approaches that prepare the future workforce with key skills for aerospace manufacturing and examine and disseminate best practices for integrated innovation, design, and manufacturing, that improve manufacturing education. It also will increase the number and diversity of manufacturing workforce by guiding underrepresented students to the aerospace industry.