The NASA Langley Research facility is the oldest civil aeronautics laboratory in the country, and soon, Fairmont State University faculty members will have fellowships there thanks to a $1 million grant recently approved and funded through NASA.

Overall, the area will see nearly $2 million earmarked for aeronautics, with the other $1 million going to the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex (MAAC) in Bridgeport.

Fellowships at NASA’s Langley facility represent just a part of how FSU will spend the funds, said Phillip Mason, FSU vice president for research and graduate studies, who noted that the money will go to the school’s College of Science and Technology.

“The focus is entirely on STEM, which is our science, technical, engineering and mathematics initiatives,” Mason said.

About $200,000 of the funds will go to FSU’s Robert C. Byrd Aerospace Education Center in Bridgeport to improve physics courses, establish new student research activities and expand faculty development.

“What we’re looking to do there is, they’re wanting to expand the airframe maintenance training program,” Mason said. “So we’re spending half of those monies to acquire the additional equipment and instruments for those courses. It could be as simple as a set of tools that one might need to some more sophisticated instrumentation on how to test an engine.”

The other $100,000 will be used to acquire a glass cockpit flight simulator, which will allow the education center to “expand a number of programs there in which students will learn about the flight airplane cockpit,” Mason said. “It could be maintenance, and it also could be flight training programs.”

Another $800,000 of the funds, procured with the help of U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va., will stay on the campus in Fairmont and fund not only the two faculty fellowships at NASA Langley for three years, but also a number of student internships in the area.

Funds will be used for upgrading equipment as well as enhancing both faculty and students opportunities, Mason said.

“For the main campus, there will be monies going in to provide research opportunities for faculty, for giving them more extensive training in online course development, and for the purchases of high-speed computers for research in computer science.”

At MAAC, the funds will be used to hire an aerospace education coordinator who will go around to schools in the 1st Congressional District to teach the industry — with the idea of drumming up interest in aerospace careers — to students between the ages of 8 and 10, said Tracy Gossard, MAAC’s interim general manager.

“It’s a program that’s already been housed at MAAC before, but it was funded from state monies,” Gossard said.

She expects the program to begin this fiscal year but did not have many more details on how it will work.

“We will have to do the hiring for the coordinator so they can get started on the program,” Gossard said.

E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at mwburnside@timeswv.com.

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