Legacy of collaboration

President Kennedy highlights interdisciplinary links across campus

Matt Dunlevy of SyeSkpes

UND alum Matt Dunlevy (center), the CEO of a successful UAS industry start-up business, SkySkopes, personifies the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration at UND. He’s blended an educational background in history and aviation to build a growing business that is making waves in the UAS community around the world. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

UND alums have been pushing the boundaries of the known world through exploration since the University’s founding.

But they didn’t do it alone.

President Mark Kennedy, in his Inauguration Address on Monday, invoked the spirit of these alumni, stressing that each used the power of collaboration to achieve great success in their fields.

There’s Vilhjalmur Stefansson, whose discoveries of new lands in northern Canada are still celebrated today. But he might have been lost without the aid of his expert Inuk guide, Natkusiak.

And Chester Fritz, a pioneering commercial trader in inland China, tapped into a collaborative spirit to create opportunities with locals in a strange land.

And probably most noted is Carl Ben Eielson, famed aviator who was first to fly across both the North and South Poles. Few remember, however, that Eielson didn’t make the treks solo. He was accompanied by Australian polar explorer George Hubert Wilkins, the best navigator anyone could have at the top or bottom of the world.

These legends, who attended UND before or around the 1920s, embodied a spirit of collaboration that helped them illuminate paths to new frontiers.

“Our alums have modeled how finding common ground with others of diverse views and backgrounds is the path to success,” Kennedy said.

John D. Odegard

The late John D. Odegard, founder of UND Aerospace, used the power of collaboration to build one of the most successful aerospace education Colleges in the world.

Launching pad

A spirit of innovation through collaboration has inspired many throughout the years at UND.

People like the late John D. Odegard used it as a launching pad to build a fledgling Department of Aviation, once housed in the College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA), into its own college, the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, an international juggernaut that sets the pace for all other aerospace education institutions.

Odegard’s push to new frontiers in aviation at UND fostered a number of collaborative efforts throughout campus over the years.

Projects such as ISSAC, a sensitive camera aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used to monitor crops and other vegetation back on Earth, was the product of a partnership between UND Aerospace and departments within the UND College of Engineering and Mines. Interestingly, a UND mechanical engineering alum, Karen Nyberg, who worked on ISSAC as a student, would eventually become a NASA astronaut and journey twice into space, including a six-month stint aboard the ISS.

Drone biz

During his Inauguration Address, Kennedy reiterated that the University aims to continue being a leader in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or, as the New York Times recently suggested, “the Silicon Valley of drones.” Kennedy took the time to praise UND alum Matt Dunlevy, founder and CEO of SkySkopes, a thriving UAS business based in Grand Forks that is doing business around the world, for helping to demonstrate UND’s dominance in this area of flight.

Dunlevy’s business is located in UND’s Center for Innovation, a business incubator and investment hub that is part of the CoBPA. The Center for Innovation holds the distinction of housing the most UAS entrepreneurs and startups in the nation.

Dunlevy personifies the interdisciplinary nature of many of UND’s aviation-related projects. He studied mechanical engineering and history at UND, and has logged hundreds of flight hours in glider and powered aircraft since he was a teenager.

In August, Dunlevy teamed up with the CoBPA to launch the nation’s first business program dedicated to UAS entrepreneurship. The course is being team-taught by Dunlevy and Rick Thomas, a well-known expert on the UAS industry and the Global Hawk UAS platform.

Over the years, UND Aerospace’s leadership in UAS has produced many other interdisciplinary collaborative research projects across campus. UND psychologists have studied various “human factors” that are uniquely related to flying UAS, and researchers in the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines have studied dietary factors that might prove optimal for UAS and other forms of aviation.

UND’s Computer Science and Atmospheric Sciences Departments, both part of UND Aerospace, also are involved with UAS-related research when it comes to cybersecurity and capturing more useful and relevant data.

In a bold and innovative move, UND formed the country’s first “UAS Research Compliance Committee” to proactively regulate UAS in terms of privacy concerns and other social issues when it comes to UAS research and other related activities at UND.

The committee was, by design, interdisciplinary, with members’ backgrounds in aerospace, law, philosophy, ethics and history, among others.