It’s All About the Content
By James Maser|December 2016
“It’s all about the content.” It seems like that buzz-phrase comes up time and time again regardless of whether discussing websites, training materials, conferences and symposia, or print or electronic media. Buzz-phrase or not, content truly is the distinguishing factor between being relevant or not, and the ability of an organization to generate interest in their products. At AIAA, we are ever mindful that our members and people in the aerospace industry engage with the Institute because they recognize the content of our programming and products as being topical and relevant. Our content drives members and other aerospace professionals to engage with AIAA in order to be informed, educated, and connected, and is seen as necessary for their professional development and the needs of their employers. Furthermore, the participation of AIAA members in the identification and evaluation of what content is important to aerospace professionals is vital to a viable, healthy, and ultimately sustainable Institute.
The Institute has recently gone through an exercise that identified societal and technology trends that are affecting or will soon affect the aerospace industry and workforce in significant ways. A few areas were identified as critical for the Institute to move quickly and smartly to develop programming and products that our membership and others most need and find most helpful. The 2017 Growth Plan is focused in five areas: unmanned aerial systems, the commercialization of space, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and electric aircraft/propulsion.
Already we’ve successfully initiated programming at various forums in these areas. At the AIAA AVIATION Forum in June, we held the first DEMAND for UNMANNED UAS symposium. The event attracted 275 individuals, 30% of whom reported that they would not have otherwise attended the AVIATION Forum. A hybrid electric propulsion workshop was held at the AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in July where we engaged with researchers from government labs and from academia who are working on the peripheral technologies of energy storage and power distribution. The workshop participants learned how the state of the art in these technologies affect potential design and development approaches for hybrid electric propulsion systems for all classes of air vehicles. A follow-up activity, an Electric Aircraft Workshop and Expo, will be held at the 2017 AIAA AVIATION Forum. Finally, at the AIAA SPACE Forum in September, we held the Space Commercialization Executive Summit, where leaders in the space industry gathered to identify the hurdles confronting the successful commercialization of space and the solutions required to clear those hurdles.
So what can you do to help and how can you get involved? The answer is, we want our members to engage in every step of the process, as it best aligns with individual interests and time. For example, we are working with the Emerging Technology Committee to focus on its chartered purpose to identify emerging trends and technologies around which AIAA needs to develop content, programming, and products. You don’t have to be a futurist to make a contribution, only to have a curiosity about technology and how and why these technologies will affect aeronautics, aviation, and space.
The Growth Plan activities need champions and, more importantly, they need doers. I encourage you to get involved through the appropriate Technical Committee or Program Committee. This is your opportunity to influence and guide the creation of content to be delivered across AIAA’s forums, publications, and other programs. An excellent example is the Transformational Flight Program Committee’s leadership of the development, programming, and execution of the upcoming Electric Aircraft Workshop and Expo. Another is the Unmanned Systems Program Committee’s help in organizing and developing programming at both the inaugural and the second DEMAND for UNMANNED. Conversely, some committees do not currently have enough members to make the type of difference that they could. For example the Space Exploration Program Committee in particular could use bright and energetic members who desire to make a difference in the commercialization of space.
Get involved, make a difference. Whether you view this as an opportunity to payback an industry or a mentor that has enabled you to have a fulfilling career, or as an opportunity to pay it forward to the next generation of aerospace professionals, it is only through your involvement that AIAA will continue to be a relevant and enduring institution and to thrive in this ever-changing industry. ★