WATERTOWN, SD – Through the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program, NASA’s Office of Education will award more than $17.3 million to U.S. community colleges and technical schools including a $500,000 award to Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. The purpose of the award is to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.
The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, of which Lake Area Tech is an affiliate, submitted a proposal outlining ways to attract and retain more students in community and technical college STEM programs, develop stronger collaborations to increase student access to NASA’s STEM education content, and increase the number of students who advance from an associate to a bachelor’s degree. The proposal was one of 35 selected across the nation to receive funds.
“Being selected by NASA for this grant is an affirmation of the great work our Aviation and Agriculture departments do,” said Lake Area Tech President Mike Cartney. “We are always looking to expand and improve our STEM programs, and there is no better partner than NASA for such an endeavor. LATI looks forward to pushing the edge in Agriculture remote aerial operations. We believe these efforts will prepare students for leading edge careers, making the programs more appealing to female and Native American students.”
Lake Area Technical Institute will conduct UAV operations in cooperation with South Dakota State University. The purpose of the flights will be to collect airborne imagery and/or data to support satellite imagery calibration and precision agriculture practices. LATI (Greg Klein) and SDSU (Dennis Helder) have a proven track record of cooperation in establishing and meeting goals in research projects, the latest being an FAA-funded grant to develop an ethanol-based aircraft fuel. Earlier successes included the first-time ever certification of a “flex-fuel” powered aircraft in a normal category to burn either aviation gasoline or an 85% ethanol blend fuel. We intend to continue this established, strong working relationship for the benefit of the UAV element of this grant proposal.
Under this opportunity, Lake Area Technical Institute will lead a two-year effort to advance interaction between technical institutes and NASA and to elevate the role of technical institutes within the consortium, potentially leading to additional technical institute partnerships in the state. Major emphasis will be directed toward attracting more female and Native American students into STEM programs at technical institutes.
The principle programs that will benefit at Lake Area Tech are Aviation, Agri-Aviation, Environmental Technology, and Robotics. The identified fields have clear relevance within the NASA Mission Directorates and align well with recently formalized South Dakota research and development priorities and industry target sectors. Growth in these fields of study will also open new pathways for technical school graduates to transfer into related programs at the state’s four-year research universities.
Major funding will be directed to student scholarships, NASA Johnson Space Center internships, participation in the Community College Aerospace Scholars program, and on-site research internships.