Pictured is Tom Jackson, BHSU president and general aviation pilot, with his Grumman Cheetah.
SPEARFISH — Business students from Black Hills State University (BHSU) and engineering students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) are collaborating on an aviation project to develop technology and prepare a business plan to meet new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety requirements at lower cost.
“We’re linking the knowledge of our students at BHSU with students at Mines and challenging them to solve a problem together, a problem with awesome potential in the aviation industry,” said Tom Jackson, Jr., president of BHSU. “We’re looking forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.”
The presidents from the longtime rival schools, both general aviation pilots who each own light aircraft, are challenging their students to develop an affordable version of air-tracking technology known as ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) that will be required by the FAA in 2020.
Aircraft are currently required to have transponders in busier airspace so that air traffic control can see them. This new technology will allow aircraft to “see” each other in the air, a major safety advancement. It would be similar to vehicle navigation systems that visually show all the other cars on the road. as well as all of the weather up ahead.
BHSU in Spearfish, led by Jackson, is a comprehensive liberal arts university with an internationally recognized business program, and SDSMT in Rapid City, led by President Heather Wilson, is a top-ranked engineering and science university. Jackson flies a Grumman Cheetah. Wilson owns a Cessna 152.
“President Jackson asked me if I thought that innovative engineers from Mines might collaborate with business students at BHSU to meet a safety need at a more reasonable price for the general aviation community,” said Wilson. “It sounded like an interesting project and worth a try.”
Faculty members from the two campuses have already been collaborating. Next fall, BHSU business students and SDSMT engineering students will team up on a senior design project to build and test an ADS-B system that complies with the technical requirements set out by the FAA at a significantly lower cost than those currently on the market.
“As a pilot, I know there’s a pressing need for this technology. This is a need we can address,” said Jackson. “BHSU and School of Mines students and faculty could be a part of developing that technology. It’s an exciting partnership.”
On the technical side, Scott Rausch, acting head of SDSMT’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is a former engineer for avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins. Avionics and antennae are strengths of the electrical engineering program. This project will use the department’s new flight simulator for testing and integration of the ADS-B system. Rausch is also a private pilot and prior owner of a Grumman Tiger airplane.
Jackson and Wilson may fly the equipment as part of the test program.
“Of course the goal is the development of a successful, affordable air-tracking system, but our students will take away much more than that,” said Jackson. “They’ll be a part of this larger project, working together, sharing their ideas, and working toward that end goal.”
“This joint project addresses a real industry and consumer need and draws on the strengths of the two universities,” said Darren Haar, an entrepreneur-in-residence at SDSMT who helps to drive technology developed at the school into the marketplace.
“It’s a great opportunity for planting the seeds of entrepreneurship, in the Black Hills,” said Dr. Jeff Wehrung, director of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship and Tourism and an assistant professor of management/entrepreneurial studies, who will serve as the lead faculty member from BHSU on the collaboration.
Dean of the College of Business and Natural Sciences at BHSU, Dr. Priscilla Romkema, said the project will enable business and engineering students to work together on a mutually-beneficial opportunity.
“We know this partnership will create a collaborative spirit among students as they apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned at their respective institutions,” she said.