Partnership to improve aerospace technology and educational opportunities
By Jeff Harrison
Leaders from Tinker Air Force Base and the University of Oklahoma last week signed an educational partnership agreement to provide educational opportunities for students and faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Brig. Gen. Jeff King, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander, and Dr. Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, vice president for Research and Partnerships at OU, signed the agreement during a July 14 ceremony at Building 3001.
King believes the agreement will be mutually beneficial for both parties – providing OU students and faculty with unique experience and learning opportunities, and the Air Force with fresh perspectives in sustaining and maintaining aircraft.
“For the Air Force, it keeps us infused with fresh minds and energy and technology, and for the university, it gives students and faculty access to equipment, real world problems and challenges they would not normally had. And I have to believe it will help turn out better quality engineering students.”
Diaz de la Rubia said he is excited about the opportunity for students to learn from professionals at Tinker and play an important role in helping the nation.
“We are fully committed to bringing science, engineering, technology and the best minds that we can bring to the table to help you accomplish mission of keeping our brave men and women in uniform flying in support of our nation and our allies,” he said. “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to really contribute and be part of your critical important national security mission.”
Dr. Kristian Olivero, technical director of the OC-ALC, said the agreement will help Tinker and OU develop a collaborative relationship rather than a transactional one. In the past, Olivero said they would contact the university to recruit students or a contract for a research project. Now, they will be able be able to share ideas and perspective to help solve problems.
“We have a great brain trust here with over 2,000 engineers, but the truth is, we work behind the fence and that means we do not exchange ideas,” he said. “Opening the gates and letting people come from the university will allow us to exchange ideas and get different perspectives. Problem solving benefits from diversity. The more perspectives you have at table helping solve problem, the better ideas are.”
Several aircraft and weapon systems are maintained at the OC-ALC on a daily basis. They range from legacy systems such as the B-52 Bomber, which arrived on base in 1955, to the new KC-46A Pegasus.
“We have the pediatric and geriatric aircraft challenges and both require a lot of thinking and a lot of knowhow,” said King. “This agreement will help us open our resource to get after Air Force readiness.”
Olivero said it will also help Tinker recruit future employees in the high-demand fields of science and engineering.
“There is no better way to recruit engineering and science students than having them work on projects with some of the best facilities and coolest equipment in the world,” he said.
The partnership will include students working on base and remotely through the OU campus.
Tinker officials said the 76th Software Engineering Group will be the first to set up an office of research satellite office, located on the OU campus. The workforce will not only be able to collaborate with professors and have a better recruiting presence, they will also have access to new technologies and commercial internet capabilities not available on base.
Last year, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex was designated a national laboratory, which opened the door for the partnership with OU.
“We decided that rather than coming to the university and making transactions, let’s figure out what our common goals are and use our resources together so it’s good for both of us,” Olivero said.