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ODU Celebrates Decades-Long History and Partnerships with NASA

This month, Old Dominion University commemorates its long-standing partnership with NASA as the space agency's Langley Research Center celebrates its centennial.

The center was founded in 1917 by the National Advisory Commission for Aeronautics (NACA).

Oscar Gonzalez, a professor and associate chair of ODU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, called Old Dominion's partnership with NASA's research facilities a joint investment that continues to create endless educational and career opportunities for students.

"Our collaboration is mutual. NASA's engineers have earned degrees at ODU and many of our students are working at their facilities," Gonzalez said. "We also support NASA through grant funding in solving complex issues."

Old Dominion's Batten College of Engineering and Technology's history and partnerships with NASA dates back as far as the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, a move that sparked an international space race.

At that time, the late Gene Goglia, then-chair of Old Dominion's thermal engineering department, became friends with John Duberg, who was associate director of NASA Langley Research Center. That led to a bond between the institutions that has thrived for decades.

Bob Ash, an engineering professor at ODU, said a great deal of ODU's engineering strength and success has been derived from NASA.

"John Duberg kind of took ODU under his wing," Ash recalled in "Built From the Ground Up," a history of the first 50 years of engineering at Old Dominion. "They needed a strong local engineering school. By and large, what happened was Duberg encouraged people like Gene Goglia to come over there and kick the hubcaps."

ODU engineering students and faculty members have worked on commercial and NASA scientific payload projects for more than a decade. In recent years, ODU engineering research teams have participated in successful launches of suborbital sounding rockets from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. Other collaborations include Old Dominion's involvement with the Light Detection and (LiDAR) project and the Virginia USIP "cube-sat constellation."

Paul Olsen, the director of programs and partnerships with Old Dominion's Office of Research, spoke about ODU's long history with NASA in February at Aerospace Day in Richmond. He said the relationship was "stellar" and these type of research projects are possible because of funding.

"Last year, ODU received less than 2 percent of the NASA funding for our Commonwealth universities." he said. "I am happy to share that, so far in 2017, under the leadership of President John R. Broderick and many NASA leaders, we are poised to eclipse that percentage as we set our sights on new goals in scientific research."

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