Building Our Future
By Sandy Magnus, AIAA fellow|April 2017
It looks like 2017 is shaping up to be another busy year! The AIAA SciTech Forum in January was a huge success, with nearly 1,000 students participating again. The energy and enthusiasm that was expressed by the attendees was exciting to see. We had great feedback on the Forum 360 sessions, including a panel that featured NASA Langley Research Center directors from 1996 to present day in honor of its centennial.
As you might have noticed, we continue to experiment with programming that will be personally or professionally valuable to different segments of our membership. At SciTech in addition to our Rising Leaders in Aerospace program and a Career Workshop geared toward students and young professionals, we held our first-ever recruiting event, which connected our talented up-and-coming aerospace professionals with AIAA corporate members. Based upon that positive experience, we will implement a similar recruiting event at the AIAA AVIATION Forum, which is also attended heavily by our student members. The other forum organizing committees, from the Executive Steering Committee to the Technical Program Committees, are hard at work creating impressive programs for their respective forums.
Also of importance to our student members is the AIAA Design/Build/Fly (DBF) competition, which occurs annually in April. I have attended DBF for several years now and it is such a great event! For 20 years a committed and energetic group of volunteers has worked tirelessly to create challenging missions, grade proposals and reports, and show up at the field to do technical inspections, judge, and score the entrants. The students, who come from all over the world, have a great first-hand experience learning the ins and outs of the design process and the subsequent impacts of design decisions on performance. This competition has grown every year, a testament to the team of volunteers and the value the students place on their learning experience.
Also every spring our student members gather for the AIAA Regional Student Conferences. I have attended two each year and have enjoyed seeing the talents of our student members on display. Kudos to all the AIAA members who take the time to judge the paper and the oral presentations—every year the students express gratitude and thanks for the comments and thoughtful constructive advice our judges provide them. If you have not taken the opportunity to engage in these important mentoring activities for the next generation of aerospace professionals, I encourage you to do so.
This year we will begin AIAA’s transition to the new governance structure ratified by our members last year. The new Board of Trustees and Council of Directors, populated by our current elected leadership whose terms continue, will be stood up and meet for the first time at the spring meetings in May. A group of volunteers with wide-ranging experiences with AIAA has been developing the necessary policies and procedures to kick off the new governance operations. The complete transition to the new system is expected to take three years. For those seeking more details on the governance transition please visit the AIAA website: www.aiaa.org/governance.
Several standing committees have been engaged in a process of re-examination as we transition to our new governance structure. Dr. Eric Paterson of Virginia Tech has taken over the helm of our AIAA Education Committee and Dr. John Daily of the University of Colorado Boulder is leading our Publications Committee. Our Corporate Member Committee has also been discussing how they can become more engaged and supportive of AIAA’s broader mission. All are involved in an examination of our offerings and processes to ensure that we are organized optimally to meet the needs of our members and the greater aerospace community.
In addition, two working groups have been established to work in parallel with the Governance Transition Group. The Resource Working Group’s charter is to discuss and recommend policies and practices for resource allocation and management for member-driven activities. This group has been hard at work since September 2016 and has been gathering input from the chairs of committees and sections. The International Strategy Working Group will examine and make recommendations as to what a comprehensive AIAA global engagement plan might encompass. Both working groups will be presenting their findings to the Board of Trustees at the fall meetings.
During the next year AIAA will licensing a comprehensive, user-friendly Learning Management Platform System to establish an educational portal for members and the larger aerospace community. This system will allow us to offer content via webcast and webinar format. The Board approved the measure in January and staff, working with several of our technical committees, are establishing some initial online course webinars to experiment with content format, delivery, and financial models. In addition, webcasts in areas of the AIAA Growth Plan such as cybersecurity are being planned. We are very excited about being able to serve the community in this way.
There is a lot of activity by members and staff to ensure that AIAA continues to stay aligned with not only our member’s needs but the needs of the aerospace industry at large. I want to thank you all, again, for the time and effort that you engage with AIAA. I hope that you can see that your contributions are making a difference and are leading change and creating the future of the aerospace industry and in 2017 we are making a lot of progress! ★