Building the Future Through Excitement and Inspiration
By Dan Dumbacher|September 2021
In July, the AIAA Foundation received a $1 million grant from Blue Origin’s Club for the Future. As we announced at the time, this generous gift will allow the AIAA Foundation to fuel the next generation of space professionals who will create our off-world future. It is a valuable and important next step in the work of the Foundation and builds upon other gifts to the Foundation from its corporate partners, The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin, as well as the gifts, resources, and support of all sizes received from AIAA corporate and individual members.
At AIAA, we work daily on shaping the future of aerospace. The programs of the AIAA Foundation help us do that by inspiring young people to pursue careers in aerospace. For 25 years, the AIAA Foundation has impacted countless students and educators due to the generosity of our members and creativity of our partner organizations. This inspiration is vital to the future of our industry. It’s a tremendous way for AIAA members to help pay it forward.
It is essential to continue attracting and retaining the skilled, diverse 21st-century workforce who will lead the aerospace industry into the future. However, we face a skills gap in this future group of dreamers and leaders due to significant hiring and retention challenges (see description of the challenges in 2021 AIAA Key Issues document: aiaa.org/advocacy/Key-Issues). AIAA believes we must enable a diverse and robust STEM workforce pipeline, and support workforce development for all skill types and career stages to advance learning commensurate with technology and product advancement. Today’s students will tackle tomorrow’s challenges and lead innovation in the 21st century.
This challenge is precisely what the AIAA Foundation is set up to address. The AIAA Foundation leads programs and forms partnerships that ignite the fuse of K-12 students and equip educators who shape young hearts and minds. Their work spans the three domains AIAA is organizing around in the coming year – Aeronautics, Space, and Aerospace Research and Development (R&D). The AIAA Foundation’s programs are designed to support the students – who will make up the teams – who will become the most technically proficient, professionally equipped, culturally diverse, AND successful workforce on the planet. I am confident they will take us in directions we may never have dreamed.
From scholarships, to design competitions, to technical papers, to conferences and forums, the Foundation is working daily to turn financial contributions into meaningful activities that propel aspiration into career success. Yet, what else could we do to inspire and educate our successors? Our community excels when we collaborate. We need your input, ideas, and contributions.
Back to inspiration – I’m curious what inspired your own career journey. I know the source of my inspiration, the date and the time. On February 20, 1962, I watched John Glenn on a black and white TV do something no one else in America had done yet. (My mother claimed I had seen the previous launches too!) From then on, my curiosity was sparked and I followed the first building blocks of the U.S. space program being assembled. My high school and college studies led me to an internship at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville where I could do more than watch – I got involved and added my personal contributions to the Space Shuttle program as it progressed. The rest is history. And history is still being made in our industry by our community’s shared pursuits of space – and aeronautics – and aerospace R&D.
During this anniversary year, help us make the next 25 years of the AIAA Foundation even more impactful than the first 25 years. Get involved with the AIAA Foundation. Together we will make a lasting impact on our profession, our industry, and our society.
Let’s build the future, together! ★
“Today’s students will tackle tomorrow’s challenges and lead innovation in the 21st century.”Dumbacher
View the September AIAA Bulletin section to see how AIAA is making an impact on and inspiring the next generation of aerospace professionals.