WSU and Lockheed Martin partner to bolster STEM workforce of the future


Building on a 20-year history of collaboration, Lockheed Martin recently named Wichita State University and WSU Tech as a tier one collegiate partner institution, emphasizing collaboration with the institution as an Aeronautics Sector Emerging School to bolster the pipeline for future Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM) careers. 

Wichita State and Lockheed Martin boast a strong history of strategic collaboration. Most recently, for example, is a joint program with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to build a digital twin of the F-16 Block 40/50. The program will provide unique applied learning opportunities for students while transitioning this capable airframe into 3D digital applications.  

Guided by the technical expertise of the storied Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® team, engineers and student technicians at Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) are creating manufacturing quality 3D CAD drawings of each detailed part/system component and assembling them to the air vehicle/full system level. In addition, NIAR will model key sub-system functional and logical interactions and bridge the digital thread to the insertion of automation and robotics in wiring harness modernization and construction.  

The partnership between WSU-NIAR and Skunk Works will provide a high-fidelity digital twin that will reduce sustainment time and cost, address future concerns of parts obsolescence, and train the next generation of engineers and maintainers, all while sustaining or improving the high reliability of this critical fourth-generation fighter jet until retirement. 

“Not only is the digital twin making an impact on mission readiness for the USAF and U.S. Army; it is also creating a talent pipeline through applied learning that is unmatched,” said Brian Hershberger, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Integrated Systems Air Vehicle Lead and WSU graduate. “The project is preparing students to enter the workforce with the skills they need to succeed during the digital transformation of the engineering industry.”

WSU-NIAR and Lockheed Martin began its first internship program in 2017 with the Joint Strike Fighter program. More recently, Lockheed Martin, WSU and WSU Tech hosted more than 200 engineering and business students for an expo at NIAR’s Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center, where two of the USAF’s F-16 Block 40 fighter jets are becoming digitized. The event, coordinated by the Shocker Career Accelerator, focused on educating students about the impact of digital engineering and discussed opportunities for students to obtain employment and gain vital experience in digital engineering while attending WSU and WSU Tech.

The Shocker Career Accelerator conducts talent recruitment and retention through affiliated, collaborative work to grow applied learning opportunities for the students, faculty and employer partners of WSU and WSU Tech.

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