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MTSU signs partnership with Army to promote, devel...

MTSU signs partnership with Army to promote, develop innovation [+VIDEO]

Middle Tennessee State University and officials with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have formed a partnership to encourage education, research and innovation collaborations in STEM fields and other disciplines.

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes and Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie with the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps signed the five-year agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building, followed by demonstrations of the MTSU Aerospace Department’s drone program and 3D printing, laser-cutting and virtual reality technology in the James E. Walker Library.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes enjoy a light moment regarding the university pen Ritchie used to sign the educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes enjoy a light moment regarding the university pen Ritchie used to sign the educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

The agreement seeks to enhance knowledge transfer, increase coeducational opportunities for military and civilian scholars in the areas of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and promote greater understanding between the Army and MTSU as well as the national security and academic communities.

“Innovation is a trademark of MTSU’s academic programs,” Byrnes said. “We take great pride in providing our students opportunities to gain hands-on experience and attain real-world knowledge.

“We are excited to collaborate with members of the 18th Airborne Corps and the 101st Airborne Division to advance these goals. The possible benefits and outcomes from this transfer of knowledge holds great potential for both our national security and academic communities.”

Ritchie, a Canadian officer assigned as the assistant commanding general for operations with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said the 101st Airborne Division “will serve as the lead organization to interact with MTSU to advance innovation initiatives of mutual interest and benefit.”

“Both XVIII Airborne Corps and the 101st Airborne Division are proud of our … partnership and we want to celebrate this relationship during the ceremony and campus visit.”

MTSU aerospace unmanned aircraft systems senior Corwin Cordell of Chattanooga, Tenn., offers U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie pointers in flying a drone as Chaminda Prelis, first-year Aerospace Department chair, watches. Officials with the Army’s 101st and XVIII Airborne Divisions signed and educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, to promote collaboration in the STEM fields and innovation. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU aerospace unmanned aircraft systems senior Corwin Cordell of Chattanooga, Tenn., offers U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie pointers in flying a drone as Chaminda Prelis, first-year Aerospace Department chair, watches. Officials with the Army’s 101st and XVIII Airborne Divisions signed and educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, to promote collaboration in the STEM fields and innovation. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

The XVIII Airborne Corps is comprised of four divisions and eight separate brigades, totaling 90,000 soldiers. The 101stAirborne is one of four divisions in the corps, Ritchie said, adding, “together, we are pursuing an innovation agenda.”

The agreement’s purpose is to establish a partnership model to accomplish the following objectives relevant to the implementation and operations of the XVIII Airborne Corps:

• Expand opportunities for collaboration between the airborne corps professionals and MTSU-based researchers and students in the research, design, development and application of solutions that enhance the nation’s security, economy and general welfare.

• Promote greater understanding between the national security and academic communities through cooperative researchand education opportunities, internships, and professional assignments.

• Enhance knowledge transfer between the national security and academic communities relevant to technology innovation and commercialization.

• Increase coeducational opportunities for military and civilian scholars in the areas of STEM, management, public policy, entrepreneurship and innovation, and design.

• Expand the use of Department of Defense laboratory infrastructure to enable university-based research and technology commercialization activities relevant to national security.

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes, left, gives U.S. Army Col. John Lubas a glass trophy as a thank-you for forming an educational partnership with the university in the STEM fields and innovation, as Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie watches during a signing ceremony and campus visit Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building’s Executive Conference Room. Lubas is deputy commanding officer for operations with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., while Ritchie is with the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes, left, gives U.S. Army Col. John Lubas a glass trophy as a thank-you for forming an educational partnership with the university in the STEM fields and innovation, as Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie watches during a signing ceremony and campus visit Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building’s Executive Conference Room. Lubas is deputy commanding officer for operations with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., while Ritchie is with the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“By connecting the wealth of knowledge and expertise that exists within our respective institutions, we not only strengthen our own initiatives but we create the potential for discoveries that can protect and strengthen the wider communities we serve,” Byrnes added.

Ritchie was joined by Col. John Lubas, deputy commanding officer for operations with the 101st Airborne Division since July 20.

Dr. Kevin Corns, MTSU UAS

Dr. Kevin Corns

Ben Hall, Capt. Lauren Hansen, 1st Lt. Kasey Biggs, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ron Rivera and Garth Ghearing from Fort Campbell and Staff Sgt. Samantha Essig from Fort Bragg.

While on campus for the 2½-hour visit, Army officials:

• Watched an outdoor drone demonstration by professor Kevin Corns, lab manager Alex Fomenko and students in the Department of Aerospace’s unmanned aircraft systems program. Corns and Ritchie are the respective program managers in the partnership.

“This is a great opportunity for MTSU and MTSU students to apply what they have learned in an academic setting with our counterparts in the United States Army,” said Corns, who began discussing the partnership with Rivera, the 101stAirborne’s UAS operations officer, in November 2020.

Attendees saw and flew a variety of drones — from low-cost student built to DJI Phantom 4 Pro, DJI M210, a Z30 with digital zoom camera and an XT2 with thermal imaging camera — and a portable trailer and UAS vehicle.

MTSU James E. Walker Library Makerspace Manager Valerie Hackworth, front left, provides tour of the area for U.S. Army Capt. Lauren Hansen, left, Maj. Ben Hall, Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, Col. John Lubas and others Wednesday, Sept. 8. MTSU and officials with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have formed a partnership to encourage education, research and innovation collaborations in STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU James E. Walker Library Makerspace Manager Valerie Hackworth, front left, provides tour of the area for U.S. Army Capt. Lauren Hansen, left, Maj. Ben Hall, Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, Col. John Lubas and others Wednesday, Sept. 8. MTSU and officials with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have formed a partnership to encourage education, research and innovation collaborations in STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

• Attended a James E. Walker Library Makerspace 3-D printing and laser cutting demonstrations by Manager Valerie Hackworth.

• And visited the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center in the Keathley University Centerbefore returning to their home bases.

In November 2020, MTSU and the 118th Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard signed an agreement to collaborate in several areas, notably in research of unmanned aircraft systems operations and computer science.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by Byrnes, Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes and Wing Commander Col. Todd A. Wiles, also calls upon both entities to collaborate in training and research initiatives.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

University Provost Mark Byrnes, left, and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, sign the educational partnership agreement between MTSU and the XVIII Airborne Corps Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

University Provost Mark Byrnes, left, and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, sign the educational partnership agreement between MTSU and the XVIII Airborne Corps Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)


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