Ohio University

Ohio University aerospace expertise fosters defense industry connections at Ohio Defense Forum

Author: Pete Shooner

OHIO Avionics Engineering Center Director Michael Deis at the podium during the event

Russ College of Engineering and Technology faculty participated in last week’s Ohio Defense Forum in Columbus, further cementing Ohio University’s value to the defense industry and its presence in the Dayton, Ohio, region.

Organized by the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) and hosted by U.S. Congressman Michael Turner, the event, themed “Ohio’s Defense Ecosystem,” drew defense installation leadership, community leaders, industry representatives and elected officials to connect, build awareness and gain a deeper understanding of the current defense environment.

OHIO Avionics Engineering Center Director Michael Deis, who also directs business development at the Russ College’s Dayton-area Russ Research Center, moderated the “Installation Workforce Solutions” panel discussion, which discussed workforce pipeline challenges facing the industry.

“The forum this year focused primarily on workforce development, in particular within the Air Force and the Dayton region,” Deis said. “The panel members are very familiar with the recruiting needs of the Air Force, and we had a lot of discussion about how can academia help.”

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Ohio National Guard, the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center also participated on the panel.

Panelist Jessica Salyers, deputy executive director of the AFRL, said attracting, recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining a top-tier workforce is a challenge we all face in a global economy.

“There is a lot of opportunity to partner not only regionally, but statewide, to help place talent in Ohio, and to help partner, particularly in STEM, much earlier than we have traditionally done, to begin creating a talent pipeline before students begin thinking about college majors and careers,” Salyers said.

DDC Director of Defense Programs Rachel Castle echoed this sentiment, emphasizing university-industry partnerships like those OHIO maintains and continues to pursue.

“We have heard from many professionals this week at the forum how critical, and unique, our Ohio Defense Ecosystem is when it comes to collaboration between the defense industry and our universities,” Castle said. “Our universities are winning federal contracts through the Ohio Federal Research Network and performing cutting-edge research of mutual benefit to our military, industry and academia.”

While OHIO’s Avionics Engineering Center has for decades supplied the aviation, aerospace and defense industries with groundbreaking research, Deis explains that the center, the Russ College and other colleges at OHIO have still more to offer the Dayton region – but maintaining a presence there is key.

“That’s what the Russ Research Center can provide,” he said. “It can provide that connection to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. It can provide research labs and office space in the Dayton region, where our researchers can easily collaborate with AFRL researchers. It will also be the connecting point for Dayton’s technology industry so that opportunities and partnerships can be formed between OHIO and industry partners.”

Located in Beavercreek, the 60-acre high-tech research park is home to several area tech firms and startups. Russ College faculty and staff collaborate with campus resident partners and teach professional development courses at the park’s Russ Innovation Gateway (RIG) facility. The property was the site of alumnus Fritz Russ, BSEE ’42, HON ’75, and his wife Dolores’s company Systems Research Laboratory (SRL). The duo established SRL in 1955, developing it into one of the nation's leading electronic and automation corporations before selling it and later bequeathing the property to OHIO.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.

Speakers during the panel portion of the event