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Air Force, Congresswoman Secure $1.5 Million for Upgrades at Labs

The grant, which will be used to purchase new equipment, comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s STEM program

Engineering professor Ali Ahmadi and studentsEngineering professor Ali Ahmadi talks to students about how wind tunnels operate.Photo courtesy of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Two of Cal Poly Pomona’s engineering labs will be getting $1.5 million in upgrades thanks to a partnership made possible by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano.

The grant, which will be used to purchase new equipment, comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s STEM program. The program aims to cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The lab improvements include specialized mapping equipment, and are expected to benefit hundreds of faculty members and students from the aerospace engineering department, other College of Engineering departments, and the colleges of science and agriculture.

“This is great news,” says Cordelia Ontiveros, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “Work on this project will enhance the partnership between Cal Poly Pomona and the Air Force, including faculty and students who will be more proficient in technical areas of interest to the Air Force.”

Projects that will be supported by the grant could include research into 3-D mapping of topography, analysis of vegetation, and crop dusting.

Aerospace Engineering Professor Subodh Bhandari says the participation of students and faculty from many disciplines puts Cal Poly Pomona in a league of its own.

“I am very excited that we’ll have all the equipment to do cutting-edge research,” he says. “We’re one of the few universities in the world doing this kind of multidisciplinary research.”

That will translate into a more robust and technologically savvy workforce, he adds.

With that in mind, Napolitano, a Democrat who represents the 32nd Congressional District, stepped in to help ensure the region would see those benefits through this latest grant. Her tenure in office has been focused on supporting high-tech manufacturing and expanding technical education opportunities. She previously secured helped secure $5 million in federal funding for Cal Poly Pomona, including the subsonic and supersonic wind tunnels and other aerospace labs and equipment.

“We thank the Air Force for working with us on awarding this grant to Cal Poly Pomona to expand its world-class aerospace engineering research and innovation facilities right here in the San Gabriel Valley.” Napolitano says. “Cal Poly is educating the next generation of engineers to meet the need for high-tech jobs in our region, enabling more bright young minds to become leaders in a growing industry. We congratulate President Coley, the engineering faculty and students, and the entire Bronco community for this much deserved recognition.”

Bhandari says the funding ensures that an already-robust program will grow even stronger.

“We have a very active engineering lab already. We have received money from the National Science Foundation, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, and the Department of Defense,” he says. “The new equipment will position us for even more advanced research. It will be very significant.”