Speakers Gallery

Dr. John Olson of Polaris Defense provided the opening keynote address.

Peter Larson, Chair, AIA STEM Workforce Working Group and Senior Manager of Engineering Development Staffing, The Boeing Company provided the welcome.  He described the AIA’s purpose and previous results from hosting state gatherings, emphasizing the value of ongoing collaboration to achieve measurable impact.

Dr. Doug Paulson, STEM Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education and Education Chair for AirSpace Minnesota, set the stage for considering the value of aerospace and aviation in the context of what’s needed for the vision of an effective STEM pathway.

The opening keynote address was introduced by Col. Bernie Gruber (ret.), Director, Guided Projectiles for Orbital ATK and AirSpace Minnesota Director.

Designing a 21st Century STEM Pathway was delivered by Dr. John Olson, Vice President & General Manager, Polaris Defense who is a Strategic Advisor to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Director of AirSpace Minnesota. As Vice President Space Systems at SNC, Dr. Olson was responsible for space exploration and advanced development of the Dream Chaser program. Previously he served as Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. Dr. Olson’s deep experience in national and global aerospace leadership informed his inspiring message, which showcased the cross-disciplinary nature of aerospace and high economic value of participation.

At noon on the first day, Mark Skarohlid, Vice President, Sensors & Integrated Systems, UTC Aerospace Systems who is Vice Chair of AirSpace Minnesota, introduced the lunchtime keynote address:  Seeing the World Differently:  Everyone Deserves to Fly.

Dale Klapmeier, Co-Founder & CEO, Cirrus Aircraft is the Founding Chair of AirSpace Minnesota. Since its 1984 founding, Cirrus has revolutionized the industry with multiple innovations and delivered over 6,000 SR-series aircraft. A member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, Mr. Klapmeier has received numerous national honors and is ranked #17 on Flying Magazine’s “51 Heroes of Aviation.” He conveyed the extraordinary personal and professional impact of aviation on his life’s journey and insights on its value in youth engagement for all STEM pursuits.

On Day Two of the Forum, a deeper dive into the insights of economic participation and value was provided by two exceptional presenters who understand state and national perspectives. Kevin McKinnon, Deputy Commissioner, Economic Development, Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) and Carole Rickard Hedden, Executive Editorial Director, Aviation Week Executive Intelligence joined forces on this topic.  Their informative and engaging presentations were essential to understanding the current state and emerging needs.

A remarkable case study in how one employer is directly addressing the skills gap issue was presented by Mike Derheim, Co-Founder & Chair of The Nerdery and Mark Hurlburt, President of Prime Digital Academy.  An innovative custom software design and development company, The Nerdery has taken a bold step in creating a resource to teach people from all backgrounds how to learn to code in 18 weeks during an intensive, real-work experience. Working with Twin Cities tech employers, Prime Digital Academy is demonstrating that Minnesota has an untapped army of smart, passionate problem solvers ready to change the world through software and address critical workforce needs.

To help participants consider and discuss next step opportunities, Professor Bruce Moorhouse from the Communication & Journalism Department at the University of St. Thomas led a group session around this question:  “How can we better organize ourselves to work together for greater impact to solve this problem?” The input from the Forum is under review to help shape opportunities for continuing dialogue and actions.

*All photos courtesy of ©2016 Larry Grace Photography for AirSpace Minnesota