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Morgan State University won a three-year, $1.6 million Aerospace Workforce and Leadership Development Grant from the nonprofit Base 11, the university announced on Monday.

The award will fund a state-of-the-art rocketry lab and launch a student rocketry team.

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It will also enable the historically Black university to help fill the job pipeline in what is predicted to become a nearly $3 trillion commercial space industry that lacks diversity. According to the National Science Foundation, African Americans make up just 5 percent of the science and engineering workforce.

Morgan State University President Dr. David Wilson issued this statement: “We are honored that Morgan State University was selected for this competitive grant, and confident that it will further advance our efforts to increase diversity in the STEM talent pipeline, while also turning out workforce-ready talent in high-demand industries like aerospace.

Several years have passed since the tech industry came under fire for its lack of diversity. Little has changed despite its efforts.

Facebook Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams admitted in 2017 that the pace of change for her company had been slow. Women represented 35 percent of Facebook’s workforce—a 2 percent increase from the previous year. And the company added just 1 percent of Hispanic and African-American employees year-over-year.

As poor as that sounds, the tech industry overall had a decline in the number of Black and Hispanic employees. Apple’s diversity report stated that the company worldwide was 68 percent male. Here in the United States, the tech giant was 56 percent White, 19 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Black.

“We want to ensure that the next generation of space innovators is just as diverse as America,” said African-American former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin who was on hand to present the check. “I am excited to see this generation of students getting critical hands-on experience in rocket technology, and I encourage Morgan State’s students to seize this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars.”

The grant will fund the build-out of a liquid-fuel rocketry lab at Morgan State, as well as the recruitment and hiring of an aerospace faculty leader to create a world-class liquid fuel rocketry program. Morgan State aims to bring together these elements to successfully build and launch a liquid fuel rocket that reaches 150,000 feet by 2022.

“At Morgan we encourage our students to be bold and to aim for the stars, and with the launch of this program, we can provide them with the resources to take on that challenge literally,” Wilson added.


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