2022: Celebrating and Anticipating the New Year

I was thrilled to ring in the new year in a familiar fashion—at the 2022 AIAA SciTech Forum in San Diego in January. It’s been two long years since so many of us have come together in person. It was worth the wait to feel the energy exchanged among colleagues and friends during five days of programming, both in person and online.

AIAA SciTech Forum is said to set the tone for the year. Based on my experience, I’d say this year’s tone is energized and optimistic! The forum theme was about sustainability, and I believe our community is certainly sustaining itself­—and by the nature of our work, we also are stretching ourselves and expanding our industry beyond the status quo. We are enabling sustainable systems for use in air and space. We are fostering a sustainable workforce. We are advancing an environmentally sustainable aerospace future. The work of our community fuels the collective human drive to explore, create, and be a part of something bigger than ourselves—and that was on display in San Diego.

During the forum, a huge amount of research, innovation, and progress was shared. By the numbers, AIAA hosted over 5,000 attendees: >3,000 people in person in San Diego and >2,000 people virtually. The number of students topped 1,900—a new record, including more than 600 on-site! Thousands of papers were presented on a myriad of technical topics. As I opened the forum, I claimed that the aerospace industry is not letting the hybrid world slow down our innovation, connection, and technical exchange. The five-day forum program proved me right! AIAA members showed the aerospace community how we can move forward this year at the pace technology advancement demands.

We are all concerned about large in-person gatherings during the challenging and changing conditions of the global pandemic. Many members were unable to travel for a variety of reasons, which is totally understandable. What I witnessed during the week was incredible attention to the health and safety of everyone involved. AIAA has built on last year’s in-person experiences to use the best practices we’ve learned at the 2021 AIAA DEFENSE Forum and 2021 ASCEND. I believe we must continue striving to hold in-person events safely so we can make the most of networking, mentoring, and robust dialogue. These connections are vital to our social fabric. Meanwhile, AIAA is pushing the use of technology to deliver compelling events online. This hybrid approach benefits all attendees and helps AIAA reach even more people in our community. We are able to equalize access to technical information across geographies, helping the best ideas to flourish.

The outlook on innovation for the year includes progress in the three AIAA Domains. A big thanks to our new Domain leads—Ming Chang for Aeronautics, Scott Fouse for Aerospace R&D, Julie Van Kleeck for Space—who shared their vision last month in this column. I strongly believe the Domain approach will open new doors for AIAA to pursue at this time, propelling the Institute to do what it does best—convening, publishing, educating, advocating, and connecting the content from the technical disciplines within each Domain.

Student engagement is vital to AIAA all year long. It was one of the highlights of the forum for me. I especially enjoyed the International Student Conference, which showcased the first-place winners from each of the 2021 AIAA Regional Student Conferences. These students presented their winning papers in front of a panel of AIAA member judges. If you missed it, you can read their papers in the forum proceedings.

After meeting the AIAA Diversity Scholars and attending the Rising Leaders in Aerospace special programming at the forum, I am even more encouraged by the next generation of aerospace professionals. We must continue to involve them and challenge them on their career journeys. One of the immediate steps we can take is serving as a mentor through the AIAA Mentor Match program. I have been personally enriched through my experience as a mentor and I challenge each of you to find a way to participate. If you have any questions about becoming a mentor, I would love to talk to you about it.

AIAA is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating aerospace ingenuity, collaboration, and diversity as we began this year by inducting the Class of 2022 AIAA Associate Fellows. These 133 AIAA members have distinguished themselves through important contributions to aerospace engineering and science. Congratulations to those recognized as true leaders in our profession. Their induction ceremony during the forum is further evidence our community continues to inspire innovation and drive technological progress.

As we anticipate the rest of 2022, please join me in celebrating where we are now and participate in activities all year long that enrich your AIAA membership. I hope to see many of you in person or online soon.

2022: Celebrating and Anticipating the New Year