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miércoles, 28 de octubre 2020
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From Eastern Antioquia to Outer Space

by Julián David Ospina Sánchez

Eastern Antioquia has hosted the Aerospace Engineering program in our university’s campus since 2016. The image shows a panoramic view of Guatape at night. This is one of the subregion’s 23 municipalities. Photo credit: Santiago Varela.

In October 2016, the National Ministry of Education granted Universidad de Antioquia the qualified registration to set the Aerospace Engineering program in motion. “We had all the energy, desire and knowledge, but this program wasn’t born with a silver spoon in its mouth. We didn’t have a super laboratory, teaching staff or agreements”, recalled Pedro Leon Simanca, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which hosts the Aerospace Engineering undergraduate program.

After several analyses and conversations, we made the decision that the East Campus would host the program given its strategic location near the international airport Jose Maria Cordova. “We received some criticism as well,” said the professor. “‘When are you going to make a rocket?’, people would ask.”

Julian Mauricio Arenas, co-founder of the program, explained that an aerodynamic engineer can work with planes, aircraft, drones, satellites and a host of related areas such as aerodynamics, electronic control, data interpretation and so on.

After the first class, which started in August 2017, this program has tuned in to the vocation of students from Medellin and municipalities of Valle de Aburra, especially areas of the region such as Guarne, San Luis, Rionegro, El Carmen de Viboral, La Ceja, El Santuario, Marinilla, El Peñol and Sonson. The program has also appealed to students from other cities around the country.

Today, not only 73 students are enrolled in the program, but it has the first pieces of laboratory equipment and groups of young researchers. In addition, several agreements have been signed, and there are ongoing contributions made by key institutions in this field of engineering, such as the American company Boeing, Purdue University, also American, the Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab, the Colombian Air Force, the Civil Aviation Authority of Colombia (Aerocivil) and the airline Avianca. Moreover, the program belongs to the Colombian Aerospace Cluster (Cluster Aeroespacial Colombiano), a group of companies that seek the development of the sector.

Regional and International Projection

“Right now, the leading project is the one we’re carrying out with the Boeing Company, the American multinational corporation that manufactures aircraft. It invested 25,000 dollars in the program for the ‘integration of a small jet engine in a laboratory testbed’. The purpose is to improve teaching methodologies”, stated Professor Pedro Leon Simanca.

The multinational corporation became interested in the rigor that the university is educating the new manpower with. It made this investment so that the students had the equipment to assemble an engine that could be tested in the East Campus laboratory.
The program is currently betting on two key projects. The first one is the adaptation of drones for the surveillance of the region’s crops to collect first-hand information about their development and potential problems.

The other one has to do with women’s increasing participation in this field of engineering. “A network is being created to draw the work of women and make it more visible in the aerospace field with the support of sisters Luz Maria and Andrea Martinez, who work at NASA and Boeing respectively. It is a project that will level the field for us to share this passion, discuss subjects of interest and show what we’ve learned”, said the student Laura Duque Cardona.

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Fundación Universidad de Antioquia
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