The University of South Carolina’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research announced Monday it has secured a 13,500-square-foot office and research home near downtown Columbia.
The school announced a new five-year lease agreement with SC Research Authority on Monday. The building has housed the offices for the center for the past two years, but will now expand to include a new $4.5 million research center.
The new Advanced Composite Materials Research Center will include an automated fiber placement machine for use in developing new lightweight composite structures and advanced robotic technology used to build aircraft composites. At the official facility announcement Monday, USC President Dr. Harris Pastides said this will be the first time such a state-of-the-art industrial machine will be owned outside a corporate entity.
“That’s the kind of equipment and facility that will allow companies, large and small, to come to South Carolina and play their role as best they can in developing the great aircraft and parts of the future,” Pastides said.
Pastides said for some time now the university has had the students and the faculty, but not have the right physical space to conduct the kind of research that Boeing and other aeronautic companies want. But he said the massive center allows the university to conduct the type of research that will attract other companies to the state.
“We hope to attract, maybe even lure, other companies that can’t afford that machine where they are, but would move to South Carolina so that they can have an opportunity to work with it and work with us,” he said.
The McNair Center has more than two dozen contributing researchers working in a wide range of aerospace-related fields. Pastides said the center cannot be more aptly named because Lake City native Ron McNair worked long and hard to transform himself from small town dreamer to physicist/astronaut. Pastides said the story of Ron McNair’s life continues to serve as an inspiration.
“When it came to attending college, they told him he couldn’t go to MIT. They told him he couldn’t become an Air Force pilot or an astronaut. So that’s the kind of role modeling that will continue to inspire us. When people tell us ‘no you can’t,’ we’ll say ‘Ron McNair did; we can, too.'”
Construction on the Advanced Composite Materials Research Center is expected to begin in August.