Unmanned Systems Research Institute partners with Boeing to create Native American student focused internship tied to NASA project

A student from OSU's Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) launches a flight test Stillwater. Oklahoma State University and Boeing have formed a partnership to fund an internship for a Native American high school student to work at USRI.

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Oklahoma State University and Boeing have formed a partnership to fund an internship for a Native American high school student to work at OSU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI).

Students will work directly with employees at NASA during the internship and test devices to fly aircraft on Mars, Venus and Titan. The internship will give students an opportunity to work with many different unmanned aircraft. A mentorship opportunity will also be available to students in lower grades in order to engage students in the program and to create potential STEM careers in the future.

“The goal is to bring students in as high school interns and give them a full, immersive, real-world, hands-on experience,” said USRI director Dr. Jamey Jacob, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

The internship will primarily focus on a project nicknamed the Titan Flyer, which is based on NASA’s goal of flying something around Saturn’s moon, Titan. The main goal of the internship is to fly aircraft on other planets and moons throughout the solar system.

“That gives them a problem to solve,” Jacob said. “It gives them a creative space to work in since they don’t know what they don’t know. They can come up with some crazy ideas to see what they can do.”

Boeing has committed $1.3 million to support Indigenous communities across the United States, with $300,000 dedicated to covering grants for Southwest Tribal Nations to improve access to clean water and natural disaster response and education. A portion of the support, $140,000 in total, will provide grants in the Pacific Northwest and a $60,000 grant in Oklahoma to support education programs. The additional funding will fund future projects for Native American and Indigenous communities.

Oklahoma State University will receive $60,000 in grants, which will be primarily aimed toward underrepresented students, focusing on the Native American community. However, the grant is open to all students.

The internship goes through the summer but is still open throughout the year.

“We are not just interested in having a one-and-done internship opportunity, but also having some sort of mechanism where the students can still be engaged throughout the school year,” Jacob said.

Jacob believes the program will be ongoing for many years and grow into other program opportunities.

“One thing I like about this particular problem is I have been working on it for 20 years,” he said. “That is how I originally got my academic start in drones, and we just now got an aircraft to go to Mars 20 years later. There are so many years that we can build upon and students can come up with ideas.”