The Air Force Academy released its 2012 research report Oct. 8, 2012. The report outlines the programs made possible through more than $60 million in federal and non-federal funds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Royce Beal)
Cadet 2nd Class Zachary Bruhn researches algae lipid biofuels in the Life Science Research Center at the Air Force Academy Sept. 26, 2012. Bruhn is assigned to Cadet Squadron 01. (U.S. Air Force photo/Elizabeth Andrews)
10/17/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy released its 2012 research report Oct. 8, outlining the Academy's 18 research centers, two Air Force institutes and a program valued at nearly $60 million.
The report includes features on mission-related efforts including the Center for Character and Leadership Development and community outreach efforts supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education initiatives.
The Academy's research program is the No. 1 federally funded undergraduate-only program in the nation, according to the National Science Foundation. The program has grown considerably throughout the last decade, from about $10 million in federal and non-federal funding in Fiscal Year 2001 and expanded to more than $70 million in FY 2011.
Contributions dropped to about $60 million in FY 2012 as part of Defense Department-wide budget cuts, but that decrease in funding hasn't affected the cadet experience, said Col. Robert Kraus, the Academy's chief scientist.
Kraus said the Academy's research program model is unique to the Air Force and DOD and has been a trailblazer in leveraging external and internal support, cooperative research and development agreements with private industry and technology transfer successes such as royalties and patents.
"We provide efficient, less expensive, yet cutting-edge and scientifically reliable research results to our customers," Kraus said. "We have created a fiscally intelligent avenue for private industries and other Air Force organizations to obtain top-notch research results and solutions for real-world problems."
As part of this effort, the Academy sends nearly 200 cadets annually to Cadet Summer Research Program research projects. These projects range from working with Intel Corporation on emerging technologies and innovations to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research programs to NASA projects. The partners have to pay only for the cost of a temporary duty assignment for cadets for three to five weeks and many cadets continue to work for these organizations during their senior year as either capstone projects or independent studies.
The research program also supports faculty development and research opportunities through small grant opportunities, the program's annual research awards and professional development. Through programs such as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, faculty can learn best practices in the classroom and to add to the scholarship on how to best teach and develop cadets and themselves as educators.
"Our research program also allows our faculty to be involved in emerging research topics and help keep them developing as scientists, researchers, and educators," Kraus said.
Newer programs like the Center for K-12 STEM Outreach and Research have broad support both financially, from the National Defense Education Program, and from faculty and cadets who volunteer hundreds of hours annually to support the Academy's STEM outreach efforts. With more than $250,000 annually invested into STEM efforts, the Academy is leading the way to fostering and leveraging the varied STEM organizations, programs and opportunities in the Pikes Peak region, Kraus said.
As the research program matures, more people are hearing about the great quality of research being produced at the Academy, and more alumni are hearing about the great research programs, Kraus said. The Academy has conducted research since its founding and anticipates a strong research program for a long time to come.