High-flying fun for all

Second annual UND Aerospace event creates a distinct experience for youth and families in the region

Aerospace Day 2018

Kids of all ages will be able to learn all about UND Aerospace during the 2nd Annual Community Day celebration on Saturday, Feb. 2. The public is invited to operate flight simulators, fly small UAS and view some of the school’s various aircraft, among other activities. UND Archival photo.

If you go:

What: UND Aerospace Community Day
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: All UND Aerospace campus buildings in Grand Forks
Parking: UND will not be ticketing when you park in UND Aerospace parking lots.

Leaders of the John D. Odegard School of the Aerospace Sciences are excited to open their doors to the community this Saturday, Feb. 2, for their second annual UND Aerospace Community Day.

It started as an idea to kick off 50th anniversary celebrations for the school, and its resounding success in 2018 inspired a sequel.

Beth Bjerke, associate dean, says the college’s ability to double as a pop-up science museum (and educational winter weekend refuge) creates a distinct experience for youth and families in the region. Everything about this year is new and improved.

“We have 165 volunteers who are faculty, staff and students – 40 more than last year,” she said. “We also reached out to some industry partners for support; now we have professionals coming in to do meet-and-greets and talks. We have more buses going out to the airport, where there will be new virtual reality simulators and everything else on display.”

The pop-up museum nature of UND Aerospace Community Day puts exciting UND research projects, such as designs of new spacesuits, on full display. UND Archival photo.

The first 500 kids to check in at UND Flight Operations, at the airport, will receive a free shirt commemorating the occasion.

“We have so many things that you’re just not going to see anywhere else in the region,” said James Higgins, chair of the aviation department, referring to attractions like flight simulators, small UAS demos and assortments of aircraft. “It’s a proud moment for us and something I hope we continue for many years.”

Aerospace Dean Paul Lindseth says the school’s doors are always open for tours, but Community Day creates a special atmosphere, especially for the community’s youngest members.

“Last year there were little evaluations at the end where people could leave comments,” he said. “A seven-year-old wrote, ‘this is the best day of my life,’ and that just struck me. That’s what this is all about. We have all of our disciplines on display in a way that’s engaging and hands-on.”

Aerospace Community Day

UND Aerospace Community Day Organizers (left to right): Elizabeth Bjerke, Courtney Olson, Marissa Saad, Jane Olson and Caitlin Nolby. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

After more than 2,500 people walked through UND Aerospace’s facilities last year, the team is making sure there’s plenty to do. Every department is involved in creating activities to engage young minds.

“Earth System Science and Policy is doing a recycling competition,” Jane Olson, assistant to the dean and Community Day facilitator, said. “In Atmospheric Sciences, people will be able to go on the blue screen and predict the weather. Space Studies has the spacecraft simulators and hands-on rocketry with North Dakota Space Grant.”

Through an alumni donation, the school also recently purchased a new projector for the Arthur P. Anderson Atmospherium in Odegard Hall, which will be used to show a NASA film about what it takes to get mankind to Mars. There’s excitement surrounding its IMAX-like capabilities, as it will be used in the future to produce star shows and display 180-degree video in planetarium fashion.

“We saw the demand last year and it’s bigger and better this year,” Bjerke said. “We’re excited to show everyone what we do here.”