August 05, 2022
By Joe Garvey
The Virginia Institute for Spaceflight & Autonomy (VISA) at Old Dominion University recently helped facilitate a NASA Wallops/ODU/Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) briefing at the Wallops Flight Facility.
The one-day event brought together leaders from ODU, NASA Wallops, government and contractors, and ESCC to discuss ways to increase collaboration that would better prepare students for careers at NASA Wallops and would advance the skills of current employees.
“Our goal for the trip was to get a real sense of the multiple types of skills that Wallops employees need to keep the place thriving,” said Robert Wojtowicz, ODU vice-rector and dean of its Graduate School. “Partnering with Eastern Shore Community College will allow us to provide their employees with a seamless path from associates to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”
To that end, Wojtowicz reviewed ODU’s 43 undergraduate and 40 graduate online programs available to ESCC students who could support the aerospace industry on Wallops Island. They range from accounting to aerospace engineering, business administration to cybersecurity, data science and analytics to systems engineering, demonstrating that there is a need beyond rocket scientists in the aerospace field.
“It was about making sure ODU and Eastern Shore Community College understand the workforce needs to help grow the aerospace industry,” said VISA Executive Director David Bowles. . “He’s growing up there, and we just want to make sure we have a good idea of the kinds of things they were looking for, from community college certificate programs to two-year to four-year graduate degrees.”
About 20% of ESCC graduates work at Wallops, a number the university’s president, Jim Shaeffer, hopes will grow as his institution and ODU strive to become NASA’s primary business partners on the planet. East cost.
Shaeffer emphasized the need to “better prepare community college students to work at NASA Wallops.”
Among the topics discussed were:
- Build on existing partnerships
- Ways to Bridge the Education Gap to Meet the Needs of NASA Wallops
- Have access to labs and lab equipment to better prepare students to work there
- Workplace learning experiences
- The need to further develop a local labor pool
The group visited spaces rarely seen by the public, including NASA’s Mission Operations Control Center and the beachfront launch pad of the Antares rocket. They discovered weather balloons that collect data such as barometric pressure, wind speed, etc., at one-second intervals. This information is then sent to the National Weather Service twice a day. They also discussed Rocket Lab USA, which selected Virginia for a neutron rocket launch site and plans for another launch pad at Wallops in 2024.