Partnered with the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) and Aviation & Missile Center, Wichita State University’s FirePoint Innovations Center is building collaborations with the U.S. Department of Defense.
The partnership, which started two-and-a-half years ago, helps U.S. Army researchers develop technologies and deliver new capabilities to army warfighters. The program accelerates joint technology development and transfers among the CCDC, universities, industry and government organizations.
“FirePoint is essentially a connection point that assists in connecting army scientists and researchers with universities and start-up companies who are researching new technologies,” Steve Cyrus, executive director of FirePoint, said. “The Aviation Missile Center is always looking ahead and designing the future technology that the army will need in years to come.”
One critical part of the FirePoint Innovation Center is the C3 challenge, which is a workforce development initiative that works alongside those involved in manufacturing in the Army.
With new technology sprouting up, it’s important for the army to be involved in areas of interest. FirePoint began the C3 Challenge as a way to connect the army with universities that are creating new products that would be beneficial in military combat.
“We wanted each of the teams from other universities, to come in to our center and expose the interesting things they are creating from a subsystem level in their own labs,” Cyrus said. “For instance, some teams might have the structure of a drone, others have the propulsion and the energy source. We try and integrate each factor to create something new.”
Universities across the United States come together with proposals, once the winner is selected in each category, then the universities work together to build an entirely new product.
“Innovation is important. If you can innovate in each of the drones’ areas, you can create something new, which can be beneficial in the future,” Cyrus said.
This is the second year for FirePoint Innovations to host interns for the summer. Two students from Alabama are working at NIAR in Wichita. One student is a chemical engineering student, and the other is studying mechanical engineering.
“The students will be working at NIAR, which is also part of the FirePoint program. They’ll be here for the summer, then travel back to Alabama for their schooling,” Cyrus said.
Last year, FirePoint Innovations sent five students to work in the labs in Alabama. The partnership among other universities provides applied learning opportunities to students.
“One student got to work in the army gaming studio and others worked within missile composite structures,” Cyrus said. “I think the internship program is a lot of fun. I had people who helped me get my first job, so now I’m able to do that for others. It’s a joy getting to watch their transition through the internship process.”
Along with internships and the C3 Challenge, FirePoint Innovations serves as a touch point for the Department of Defense.
“As we try and diversify the innovation campus, having the DOD and relative companies exposed is really important,” Cyrus said. “When you think about what is happening here in the Wichita ecosystem along with aviation, it’s another outlook for students and opportunities provided to them.”
FirePoint Innovations provides collaboration among other universities and exposes students to career opportunities post-graduation. While the organization works as a touch point for the army it brings awareness to students and their post-graduation plans.
“The company supports students and soldiers. Having an entity that relates back to the Army, and their mission is a benefit. I try and do my part in mentoring students and guiding those searching for career options.”