USC's College of Engineering and Computing launched the first public undergraduate aerospace engineering program in the state this semester aimed at giving students the opportunity to start a career in or study the aerospace industry.
Aerospace engineering focuses primarily on creating and developing aircraft and spacecraft. The goal is to split the program into three different disciplines: traditional aerospace engineering, integrated information technologies and aerospace systems.
USC professor and director of aerospace studies Michel Van Tooren said he thinks the program will help attract students because it will help them enter an often lucrative field.
"Aerospace engineering is still one of the few engineering directions that has a clear object, has a kind of a guideline,” Van Tooren said.
He said ideal candidates for the program need to be willing to get creative in their coursework.
“So you need students that are willing to every time, reinvent, not the wheel but something new," Van Tooren said. “Because every generation of aircraft is different, you always have to be better than your competitors."
Van Tooren wants the aerospace engineering program to grow through interest and funding to eventually offer a doctoral program and updated facilities and labs.
Caleb Pupo, an engineering graduate student, is working with the program to recruit potential students.
"There's no other aerospace university in the state of South Carolina," Pupo said. "So this is pretty huge for South Carolina."
The 2018 South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo, held at USC in early October, celebrated the new aerospace engineering program and featured keynote speakers and interactive and informational booths.
Aerospace engineering companies and organizations manned the booths, allowing students to interact with simulations and robotics and gain knowledge about the discipline.
Michael Madden, a second-year computer engineering student, said the program speaks to the engineering industry's growth in South Carolina. He specifically mentioned Boeing's plant in Charleston, South Carolina.
“The fact that we’re manufacturing F-16's for the Department of Defense is pretty cool," Madden said.
And for potential future Gamecocks who visited like Tristin Lane, a 10th grade Easley High School student, it was a chance to get a potential glimpse into their future.
“Aerospace is pretty cool, I like it. It’s kind of what I’m interested in," Lane said.