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CSULB Awarded $5 Million NASA Grant to Establish Campus Center

Published: October 15, 2009

Due to its dedication to educating large numbers of minority and underserved students, CSULB has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to create a center that will help make technological advances in the air traffic management industry through the study of human factors issues.

The grant was awarded through the NASA Group 5 University Research Center awards program, whose goal is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by establishing significant multi-disciplinary scientific, engineering and commercial research centers at minority-serving universities.

CSULB was one of just six universities selected to receive the award from 35 proposals that were submitted from colleges and universities from across the country. Each university will receive up to $5 million in $1 million annual increments.

“At Cal State Long Beach, we take great pride in the fact that the makeup of our student body reflects the diverse populations of the communities we serve and this grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration gives credibility to and rewards that fact,” said CSULB President F. King Alexander. “The grant is also proof of the confidence that organizations such as NASA have in the quality of the programs and people we have here at Cal State Long Beach.”

CSULB will use the grant to establish the Center for Human Factors in Advanced Aeronautics and Technologies (CHAAT), which will focus its research on the human factors issues involved in designing automation tools for the Next Generation Airspace Transportation System, also known as NextGen.

Specifically, CHAAT will develop metrics for assessing operator performance in both current-day and NextGen environments, conduct simulations for identifying the most promising automation concepts, determine training needs for future operators in NextGen and determine the interface requirements of the automation tools.

“Airspace operators will assume new roles and responsibilities under the Next Generation Airspace Transportation System,” explained Tom Strybel, CSULB psychology professor and principal investigator for the project. “These new roles and responsibilities are a reaction to potential changes in air traffic management (ATM) and the introduction of new automation technologies to support these important developments. These far-reaching changes are being pursued to address the unprecedented growth in the demand for air travel, and the acknowledged inability of the current system to meet this demand.”

Photo by David J. Nelson
Students working on a simulation project are (back row, l-r) Joanna Prado, associate professor Kim Vu, Jimmy Nguyen, Paige Bacon and Katsumi Minakata. Seated are (l-r) professor Tom Strybel and Joshua Kraut

“The Center for Human Factors in Advanced Aeronautics Technologies will also attract more students to CHAAT and the masters degree program in human factors, especially those students from minority groups,” said Kim Vu, associate professor of psychology and project co-investigator. “With the support obtained from the University Research Center Program, CSULB can also expand and improve the skills of faculty who provide human factors’ training, create new opportunities for faculty collaborations with NASA and other organizations, and support new faculty-developed NASA-relevant research programs and proposals.”

CHAAT will leverage existing centers of human factors and aerospace engineering at CSULB in psychology (Center for the Study of Advanced Aeronautics Technologies and the Center for Usability in Design and Assessment) and engineering (Center of Aerospace Technology in Support of the Aerospace Industry).

“We have established an interdisciplinary team of human factors researchers and engineers at CSULB as well as scientists from San Jose State University. These scientists and engineers will work directly with the Flight Deck Display Research Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, our NASA partner,” Strybel added. “By increasing the available course offerings and strengthening our student supervisory capability, eventually we hope to establish an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in human factors. We believe that a need exists for Ph.D.-level training in human factors within the state of California and that CSULB is the best qualified to offer this degree.”

Through the NASA Group 5 University Research Center awards program, NASA seeks to foster new aerospace science and technology concepts and expand the nation’s base for aerospace research and development. The program also aims to develop mechanisms for increased participation in NASA’s research by faculty and students from minority-serving colleges and universities.