University of Utah, US Air Force Form Historic Education Partnership – KSL.com | Team Cansler

Brigadier General Richard W. Gibbs speaks to students before a ceremony at the University of Utah where the university and the U.S. Air Force announced a historic educational partnership Friday in Salt Lake City. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – As a kid growing up in Hoytsville, Dean Richard Brown of the University of Utah College of Engineering was so fascinated by jet engines that he attempted to build one for his bicycle.

What he actually built was a liquid-fuel rocket engine.

“Luckily, we and my younger brother Paul, who was the pilot on the ground, didn’t manage to ignite the thing,” Brown said Friday. “Otherwise I would not be here to welcome our distinguished Air Force dignitaries to the University of Utah.”

What has been explosive, however, is the growth at the US College of Engineering, and on Friday the college took another step in that growth, welcoming an educational partnership with the US Air Force and Hill Air Force Base.

“This new partnership will provide even more opportunities for hands-on experience and provide our students with a world-class awareness of grassroots career opportunities,” said Brown. “It will also facilitate educational opportunities for grassroots staff through online and customized learning experiences.”

In addition to educational and career opportunities for both U. students and Hill Air Force Base staff, the partnership will enable collaborative research between the Air Force and U. faculty on a variety of topics including data analysis, robotics and machines Learning for materials research, prosthetics, nuclear engineering, additive manufacturing and more.

Richard B. Brown, HE Thomas Presidential Endowed Dean at the University of Utah College of Engineering, speaks during a ceremony at the University of Utah where the university and the U.S. Air Force announced a historic educational partnership Friday in Salt Lake City.
Richard B. Brown, HE Thomas Presidential Endowed Dean at the University of Utah College of Engineering, speaks during a ceremony at the University of Utah where the university and the U.S. Air Force announced a historic educational partnership Friday in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

In addition, Air Force personnel will work with the United States to develop new educational programs and provide laboratory personnel to conduct courses.

“The knowledge and expertise that the University of Utah offers will be of tremendous value in our pursuit of excellence,” said US Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Richard Gibbs. “This agreement is a huge win for both the Air Force and the university system here. I am excited about the educational partnership and what it means to the future of the Ogden Complex.”

Jake Abbott is a mechanical engineering professor at the U. who has done research with the Air Force. He said the partnership will provide a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in different types of research.

“It creates a mechanism where — when we have common interests with people in the Air Force and it’s recognized that you have those common interests — it just makes collaborations and information sharing, sharing resources, sharing facilities, all of these making exchanges smoother and faster.” and will ultimately result in research getting out of the lab and into the real world more quickly,” Abbott said.

He said academic research can often be frustrating because students may have good ideas but the funding to support those ideas isn’t there. Furthermore, even if there is funding and interest, it still takes “many years” to get contracts and agreements to where a student can actually work on that idea.

“These educational partnership agreements, it’s almost like you’ve pre-negotiated the contractual elements of it and it makes things run more smoothly afterwards,” Abbott said. “For some people it could be internship opportunities, for some people it could be access to data, access to information and for some people it could be funding support in some way.”

The five-year agreement allows the U.S. and Air Force to combine resources that will benefit future national security projects and other technologies, and foster collaborations that will ultimately benefit Utah’s technology sector, the university said.

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter for KSL.com covering the communities, education, economy and military of southern Utah.

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