OSU announces launch of Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Media Contact:
Monica Roberts | Interim Assistant Vice President of Strategic Communications | 405-744-4800 | [email protected]

From OSU DISCOVERY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State University announced today the
creation of a new institute aimed at supporting aerospace industry growth in Oklahoma
and beyond. 

“Our mission is to drive cross-industry collaborations and innovation, which is exactly
what brings us together today,” said OSU President Kayse Shrum. “Oklahoma State University
offers a complete turnkey solution for Oklahoma’s aerospace industry needs. From K-12
enrichment and workforce development, through faculty and graduate research to groundbreaking
innovations in industry partnerships, we are leading the state to advance this important
economic engine.

“Today, we’re announcing the formation of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research
and Education. Oklahoma State University is the clear leader in aerospace within our
state. We’ve had a partnership with NASA for more than 50 years. We’ve been training
pilots for more than 80 years. Our depth and breadth of knowledge, faculty and research
investments cannot be matched. We’re so proud of this very long history in aerospace
and aviation excellence.”

The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE) will bring the
state’s aerospace innovation economy together under one umbrella. OAIRE will support
ongoing and future partnerships between university, commercial, military and government
agencies, becoming a valuable resource for developing Oklahoma’s aerospace ecosystem.
That includes generating high-tech jobs and cutting-edge research that brings commercial
enterprise and military sustainment support to the state. 

The comprehensive scope of OAIRE also includes K-12 outreach programs focused on STEM
connections, building the Oklahoma aerospace workforce pipeline and promoting community

Elizabeth Pollard, Oklahoma’s secretary of science and innovation, speaks at the unveiling
with Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum seated behind her of the Oklahoma
Aerospace Institute for Research and Education at OSU DISCOVER in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Shrum said OAIRE will allow OSU to connect seamlessly with industry and K-12 partners
and elevate OSU’s leadership role in Oklahoma aerospace, inspiring the next generation
of aviators and engineers while enhancing opportunities for industry and defense partners
in Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation Elizabeth Pollard echoed Dr. Shrum’s

“The Oklahoma economy is at an inflection point,” Pollard said. “Disruptive technology
is changing the face of every industry and forcing all states to reassess how best
to compete and remain relevant in a knowledge-based innovation economy. Innovation
is the key driver to economic growth and prosperity. It is critically important to
Oklahoma’s future. It will grow and diversify our state economy, accelerate our state’s
competitiveness and create large-scale, high-paying jobs for Oklahomans. 

“The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education will be at the forefront
of innovation in the aerospace realm, and I commend Oklahoma State University for
their successful programs and continued partnerships with the state. Prominent research
and development activity related to aerospace has been underway for decades at OSU
and with their leadership in this dynamic industry, Oklahoma will be well-positioned
to lead the ever-evolving aerospace frontier. The state of Oklahoma has significant
research and development strengths, and with OSU’s leadership, the vision to emerge
as a leading region for growth in the autonomous systems and aerospace industry is

Due to industry demand, aviation is one of the fastest-growing programs in the OSU’s
College of Education and Human Sciences. To reach OSU constituents across the state,
OAIRE will expand OSU aerospace research and course offerings in Oklahoma City at
OSU DISCOVERY and in Tulsa at the Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center. This
will allow students greater access to OSU’s undergraduate and graduate programs, which
will be tailored to meet the needs of the aerospace sector in the surrounding area.
Professionals seeking aerospace-related degrees can take aerospace or systems engineering
core courses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa or Stillwater.

Elizabeth Pollard, Oklahoma’s secretary for science and innovation, and Kenneth Sewell,
vice president for research at Oklahoma State University, speak at the unveiling of
the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education at OSU DISCOVER in Oklahoma

For K-12 schools, programming will include technical training, career placement and
entrepreneurial opportunities for student engagement and retention. OSU will prioritize
outreach to Native American and other underrepresented K-12 students with the goal
of developing and retaining the talent pipeline for Oklahoma-based companies. 

Dr. Cecilia Robinson-Woods, superintendent of Millwood Public Schools in Oklahoma
City, said one of her major concerns is preparing students for future careers, especially
ones from underserved communities and the school districts surrounding the OKC Innovation
District. She said partnering with OSU has been a tremendous help in showcasing opportunities
for students. This summer, for example, OSU welcomed more than 1,500 students to STEM

“This partnership with Oklahoma State and aerospace helps us tremendously in regard
to assuring that we’ll be able to train teachers to prepare kids, and then giving
kids opportunities to see jobs in these high-paying industries. We’re very, very excited
for the partnership to add exposure, starting with the STEM camps this summer. Sending
1,500 kids to just be exposed to what a career in aerospace or engineering or STEM
would look like is an amazing start. …

“I think it is paramount that being located here in Innovation District, that we focus
on surrounding school districts that service a population that wouldn’t always have
access to these types of jobs. I appreciate the partnership, and we look forward to
preparing tomorrow’s workforce with our kids from surrounding districts.”

With the largest and oldest aerospace engineering program in the state, OSU has long
been a global leader in aerospace, defense and aviation research, conducting large-scale
research with the FAA, Air Force, Navy, Army, and Special Operations Command. OSU
faculty members conduct research with such industry partners as Boeing, Pratt and
Whitney, Kratos, Skydweller, Zivco, Frontier Electronics Corp., Vigilant Aerospace
Systems, Toyota and many others. 

Paul Tikalsky, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology,
said OSU will have more than $80 million under contract this year related to aerospace
and aerospace education. 

“OSU is the first aerospace program in the state and twice the size of any other,”
said Tikalsky. “We continue to expand our faculty and research operations and are
now teaching more than 500 undergraduates in just aerospace engineering and another
1,000 in related fields. OSU brings expertise to industry partners in everything from
advanced propulsion systems to avionics, unmanned systems, aerostructures, cybersecurity,
re-engineering, airfield design, human factors, pilot training and much more. The
Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education is part of the next generation
of OSU and Oklahoma’s growing economy.”

Brenda Rolls, CEO of Stillwater-based Frontier Electronics Systems, said her company
was founded by three OSU enthusiasts, one of whom was an engineering professor with
a vision for retaining Oklahoma State graduates in the state by providing opportunities
for engineers and other professionals. She said the strength of OSU’s engineering
programs have been an important factor in Frontier’s success, with roughly 90 percent
of Frontier’s degreed employees coming from OSU. 

“We congratulate Oklahoma State on this significant and game-changing initiative and
we look forward to the robust advancement of the aerospace and technology business
sectors within Oklahoma,” Rolls said. 

As a nexus of research, development and educational laboratories, OAIRE is in a unique
position to serve and assist industry and government with technology development and
applied research. The workforce includes OSU faculty experts, seasoned engineering
and science professional staff as well as graduate and undergraduate students. OAIRE
will build on core strengths developed by OSU and its many partners, supporting these
partnerships in aerospace and defense research and education with: 

  • Novel design tools
  • The new Ray and Linda Booker OSU Flight Center
  • Airfield for aerospace testing
  • Rapid prototyping platforms
  • High-performance computational center 
  • 28 faculty members across a wide-array of expertise in aerospace and aviation
  • Research engineers and graduate researchers
  • K-12 teacher training programs and summer STEM camps.
From left: Millwood Public Schools Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods, Frontier
Electronics CEO Brenda Rolls, Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum; Paul
Tikalsky, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology; and Kenneth
Sewell, Vice President for Research at OSU.



  • 50-plus years, OSU has worked on projects for NASA.
  • 62% is how much OSU’s aerospace engineering enrollment has grown over the last 10 years. 
  • 70% of the state’s aerospace engineering degrees are from OSU.
  • 500-plus students are enrolled and 80-plus graduate annually from OSU’s aerospace engineering
  • $5.2 million has gone into the NASA WINDMAP University Leadership Initiative team led by OSU to
    develop weather monitoring and forecasting for advanced air mobility.
  • $16.7 million in research has been done by OAIRE engineering faculty h in the past three years.
  • $33.8 million in ongoing aerospace engineering related research awards and more than $4.8 million
    in aviation research and education related awards have gone to OAIRE faculty.
  • OSU leads NASA’s Oklahoma Space Grant and NASA educational programs, such as NASA’s
    Native Earth/Native Sky program aimed at tribal students and the NSPACE program, which
    provides competitive and innovative STEM educational opportunities to K-16 students
    and educators across the country.
  • OSU has a special agreement with PSA Airlines, which gives students a direct path
    to American Airlines through the PSA Cadet Program. 


  • 1935 is when the Civilian Pilot Training Program opened at Oklahoma A&M College, kicking
    off a long aviation tradition.
  • 1948 saw the founding of the nationally recognized Flying Aggies, a student flying club founded by former World War II pilot Hoyt Walkup.
  • 11,600 square feet is the space available in the new Ray and Linda Booker OSU Flight Center.
    It includes spaces for individual flight debriefings, offices, student common areas,
    dispatch and more. 
  • In 2019, OSU aviation was selected for the Top Hawk program, a partnership with Textron
    Aviation that provides students with access to the Cessna Skyhawk.
  • OSU is home to the historic and nationally recognized Flying Aggies, a student flying club founded in 1948 by former World War II pilot Hoyt Walkup.