By William C. Jackson
Baltimore’s Morgan State University was awarded a three-year, $1.6 million Aerospace Workforce and Leadership Development Grant on from the nonprofit organization Base 11, according to Afro.com. The historically Black college made the announcement on February 11.
The grant, which aims to improve diversity in the aerospace talent pipeline, was announced in June 2018, and drew proposals from eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Morgan State will use the funds for the build-out of a liquid-fuel rocketry lab, as well as the recruitment and hiring of an aerospace faculty leader to create a world-class liquid fuel rocketry program. Morgan State aims to bring together these elements to successfully build and launch a liquid fuel rocket that reaches 150,000 feet by 2022.
“The proposals for the HBCU Aerospace Workforce and Leadership Development Grant were quite impressive,” said Base 11 Chairman and CEO Landon Taylor. “Morgan State is especially well positioned to leverage their existing resources, faculty expertise, and industry partners to launch a successful and sustainable rocketry program that brings hands-on, experiential learning to students.”
“We are honored that Morgan State University was selected for this competitive grant, and confident that it will further advance our efforts to increase diversity in the STEM talent pipeline, while also turning out workforce-ready talent in high-demand industries like aerospace,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “At Morgan we encourage our students to be bold and to aim for the stars, and with the launch of this program, we can provide them with the resources to take on that challenge literally.”
Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin was on hand to formally present the check to and inspire university students who were in attendance, to pursue aerospace as the “Next Frontier.”
“We want to ensure that the next generation of space innovators is just as diverse as America,” said Melvin, a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions. “I am excited to see this generation of students getting critical hands-on experience in rocket technology, and I encourage Morgan State’s students to seize this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars.”
The commercial space industry is expected to become a $2.7 trillion economic sector in the next 30 years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Yet the industry faces challenges in recruiting a diverse workforce. According to the National Science Foundation, African Americans make up just 5 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
“While many universities across the country have rocketry teams where students gain hands-on experience, what we’ve seen is that the number of women and underrepresented ethnicities on those teams remains quite low,” said Base 11’s Taylor. “That’s why this grant to Morgan State is so exciting – we have an opportunity to significantly diversify the talent pipeline in aerospace.”