LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State students are the only ones in the country to gain access to a high-tech training facility paid for by a grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“This is awesome,” said Ryker Bukowski, an aerospace engineering senior at NMSU. “I’m glad everyone gets to try all this.”
The facility was paid for by a $900,000 grant from the Department of Defense. NMSU is the only university in the country to house such a lab.
“Students can come train on equipment that actual pilots in the DOD use to train to fly the F-35,” said Derrick Hinton, a spokesman for the Secretary of Defense. “We have an environment where they will be actually conducting test missions as if they were test engineers out at White Sands.”
The facility is a replica of the control room at White Sands Missile Range.
“It’s really cool. I’ve worked with programs like this before here at NMSU, but this is so much more high tech,” said Thomas Valenzuela, a senior at Arrowhead Park Early High School. “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn about aerospace engineering.”
The high-tech training lab took a year’s worth of effort and planning by the university and White Sands Missile Range.
“New Mexico State University (is) pulling together a collaborative environment that will allow us hopefully to inspire young students into STEM curriculum and give them an environment where they want to learn,” Hinton said.
The lab isn’t just for the students: White Sands Missile Range will use it as a recruiting tool for the next generation of engineers.
“The thing that we get back is a pipeline of students that already have a background in what we do,” Hinton said. “We have a great number of engineers, but a lot of them are ready to retire. So we have to get that pipeline such that we can replace that corporate knowledge that’s about to walk out the door.”