Aviation training icons John and Martha King visit Kansas State University Salina

Known in the aviation world as icons in flight training, John and Martha King brought their education expertise to Kansas State University Salina during a campus visit on Friday, April 11.

The Kings, who are co-owners of King Schools in San Diego, Calif., met with faculty members and representatives from Textron Aviation to discuss the potential of enhancing the educational relationship between K-State Salina and the Cessna Pilot Center organization forged last year. The Kings also toured the K-State Salina aviation facilities and conducted an informative seminar for students on the beauty of flying and risk management while in the air.

John King, front left, and Martha King, front right, from King Schools, visit with Kansas State University Salina aviation faculty and students.

“Flying is an extraordinary thing and once you learn to fly, it changes who you are,” John King said to a classroom of more than 30 students and professors.

The Kings have almost 40 years of experience instructing future pilots how to fly through video and electronic-based training materials. Kurt Barnhart, professor and head of the aviation department at K-State Salina, credits the Kings as his mentors during his pilot training in the 1980s.

“It was a real honor to host the Kings here on our campus. They have contributed so much to aviation,” said Barnhart, who is also the executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center. “It would be great for K-State Salina to work with them through the Cessna Pilot Center structure to enhance access to a college degree.”

Currently, K-State Salina provides students at Cessna Pilot Centers the opportunity to transfer credit for flight and ground training toward receiving a distance-based degree from the university in technology management. K-State Salina is in the process of identifying ways to expand that relationship to provide degree opportunities in other areas.

Kansas State University Salina’s Blanks nominated for international unmanned vehicle systems board

Kansas State University Salina’s unmanned aircraft systems program continues to garner prestige with a new accolade for one of its staff members. Mark Blanks, program manager, has been named a nominee for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, board of directors.

Mark Blanks, Kansas State University Salina's unmanned aircraft systems program manager and nominee for the board of directors of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The association is the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community through education, advocacy and leadership. This is the first time someone from this region of the country has been nominated, with Blanks vying for an academia position on the board.

“I am honored to be nominated and I believe this represents how Kansas State University Salina has become a leading institution for unmanned aircraft systems education and research,” Blanks said. “The university’s strength in applied research and operational experience with civilian applications of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, would bring great value to the board and I hope to have the opportunity to serve the UAS community in this way.”

As an elected member of the board, Blanks would be responsible for collaborating with other members to determine the association’s strategic direction and goals, set policies for the conduct of its business and approve budgets and monitor finances, with an overall goal of representing the interests of the association’s global membership.

“Mark would make an excellent choice for the AUVSI board of directors,” said Kurt Barnhart, aviation department head and executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Salina. “He is well-connected and respected in the UAS industry, and has the savvy to do well in this role.”

Before coming to K-State Salina in January 2013, Blanks was the interim director of the Middle Tennessee State University unmanned aircraft systems program in 2012 and was instrumental in forming that program while working as an aviation maintenance instructor at the school. Currently, Blanks also serves as the chair for the ASTM F38-02 subcommittee on unmanned aircraft systems flight operations and is actively involved in research to support the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

“I am delighted that K-State Salina has someone like Mark representing our university,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of Kansas State University Salina. “He is a strong advocate for our UAS program, educating our community on the many uses for this technology and building partnerships with some of the most prominent UAS organizations and industries, such as the FAA and AUVSI. He would be a vital addition to the academia position on their board.”

Elected board members will be announced at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International yearly conference and trade show in Florida in May.

K-State Salina’s Barnhart offers UAS as search option in the Malaysia Airlines disappearance

Kurt Barnhart talks about UAS's capabilities in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight

It’s being called one of the biggest aviation mysteries of all time – Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanishing without a trace almost two weeks ago. And though there are many conspiracy theories floating around about the fate of the Boeing 777 passenger jet, authorities are exhausting their search options in an effort to find the truth.

Kurt Barnhart, the executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at Kansas State University Salina and the head of the department of aviation, says unmanned aircraft systems would be a helpful addition to the investigation of the missing plane. Unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, have the ability to scan vast, open areas looking for small and random anomalies, something humans aren’t typically good at.

“We tend to get empty-field myopia, which if we’re not actively guarding against that, we tend to lose focus in those areas,” Barnhart said. “Our eyes aren’t particularly attuned all the time in that situation, so it would be very easy to miss something that might be very important.”

Limited only by their fuel source, these devices have many different capabilities, such as electronically steered radar, automatic target identification and detection of variations in light reflectance. Barnhart also says in the case of a crew, they can only stay on a mission for so long, whereas UAS can operate for days at time.

One of the primary focuses of the UAS program and the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Salina is how these aircraft can aid in the response to man-made disasters as well as natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes. They also research and educate on the UAS possibilities of servicing farmers and agriculture and the energy industry.

K-State Salina was one of the first two universities in the nation to offer a Bachelor of Science in unmanned aircraft systems and has become a recognized national leader in UAS education and operations since it was established six years ago.

K-State Salina students lead residence hall name change request approved by Kansas Board of Regents

After approval from the Kansas Board of Regents on March 12, the building simply known as Residence Hall for the last 20 years on the campus of Kansas State University Salina will now be called Schilling Hall.

Residence Hall on the Kansas State University Salina campus is getting a new name, Schilling Hall, as approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.

The change comes after several students expressed their confusion over the literally named Residence Hall, saying an actual name would make it easier to distinguish between it and K-State Salina’s other residence hall, Harbin Hall. The Student Governing Association, or SGA,  then solicited name suggestions from the student body, and the K-State Salina Student Senate voted on the final decision. Schilling Hall was chosen as a nod to the past when the campus was first Schilling Air Force Base and later Schilling Institute.

Once Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina, approved the residence hall name change, it was submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents to become official.

Tyler Lewis, Student Governing Association president and senior in aeronautical technology, is pleased the students’ hard work paid off.

“Usually when SGA makes small changes around the campus, we only need approval from the dean. But for our efforts to be recognized by the Kansas Board of Regents, it’s really exciting. This reinforces the power that a student’s voice can have,” Lewis said.

The suite-style residence hall was built in 1994 and accommodates around 100 students. To compliment the new name, Schilling Hall also will be undergoing renovations, though the K-State Salina Residence Hall Association would first like the community’s suggestions. On Wednesday, March 26, the association will offer a walk-through of an upgraded room in Harbin Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feedback about the renovations is encouraged.

To learn more about the residence hall walk-through, contact Rachel Bouza, residence life coordinator, at 785-826-2957 or rbouza@k-state.edu.

Changes to residence life publications and housing contracts with the new Schilling Hall name will begin immediately and the sign in front of the hall is expected to change sometime in May. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is also planned, but no date has been set yet.

University of Kansas Dole Institute of Politics invites K-State Salina’s Barnhart to speak at ‘Innovations Series’

Left to right: Bill Lacy, Dole Institute director, Kurt Barnhart, Shawn Keshmiri and Bill Donovan. Photo credit: Anrenee Reasor, Dole Institute of Politics

As interest in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continues to grow and clarification is often needed about their capabilities, Kansas State University Salina proves once again why it’s a trusted source in the developing industry.

Kurt Barnhart, the executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Salina and the aviation department head, was asked to be a featured speaker by the University of Kansas Dole Institute of Politics during their inaugural Innovations Series. On March 11, Barnhart joined KU assistant professor of aerospace engineering, Shawn Keshmiri, and Bill Donovan of Pulse Aerospace on a panel discussing non-military operations for UAS during a program entitled, “Branching Out: Exploring New Uses for Drones.”

“In looking for our potential speakers, it did not take much research to discover that Dr. Barnhart is a leader in Kansas with his work in unmanned aircraft systems,” said Melanie Coen, marketing and events coordinator at the Dole Institute of Politics. “The focus of Tuesday night’s program was on new uses for drones in fields such as search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental science and agriculture. We felt Dr. Barnhart’s experience applying UAS technology in environmental sciences, security and agriculture at the Applied Aviation Research Center would provide the depth and diversity we were looking for in a speaker on this topic.”

K-State Salina is one of the first two universities in the nation to offer a Bachelor of Science in UAS and Barnhart is always excited for an opportunity to proudly display the depth of the program.

“I think being invited to be a part of the conversation is an expression of our program’s strength and reputation that we’ve built over these past seven years, both domestically and internationally,” Barnhart said.

The Innovations Series at the Dole Institute of Politics was created after a successful multidisciplinary program that KU held on sustainability and health issues a couple of years ago. Coen says the institute was looking for ways to highlight politics and their intersection with the many fields, industries and facets of our daily lives.

For more information about the Innovations Series, contact Melanie Coen, marketing and events coordinator at the Dole Institute, at 785-864-1156 or melaniecoen@ku.edu. For inquiries on Kansas State University Salina’s UAS program or speaking engagements, contact Kurt Barnhart at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@k-state.edu.

K-State Salina instructor passes exam to be a Certified Financial Planner

Kansas State University Salina instructor, Roxanne Martens, is now on her way to being a Certified Financial Planner after passing a two-day, 10-hour exam and studying for close to six months.

Roxanne Martens, personal financial planning instructor

After earning a Master of Science in personal financial planning at the Manhattan campus this past May, Martens accepted a position with K-State Salina teaching such classes as financial counseling and advanced personal and family finance. Obtaining the certification is the next step not only in her personal education, but also in improving the type of professor she can be.

“I can teach my students what to expect when studying for the same exam upon their graduation as well as how to balance all of their financial responsibilities at school,” Martens said.

Passing the test was also a tremendous boost to her confidence, Martens said, and validated all the time, energy and effort she put in to the process. After logging close to 300 hours in her textbooks, Martens took the exam on Nov. 15 and 16 in Kansas City, with a four-hour session the first day and two three-hour sessions the second day. She learned about her positive results just before Christmas.

Currently, Martens is working towards the official credentials of a CFP – once she meets the “experience” requirements through teaching for three full years, she can use the abbreviation after her name. Martens is also in the process of creating an on-campus financial counseling program for students at K-State Salina.

K-State Salina flight instructor renews Master CFI accreditation for the sixth time

Kansas State University Salina aviation professor, Bill Gross, has once again earned his Master Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) accreditation, making him one of only 36 worldwide to receive the credential six times. Gross scored his first accreditation in 2003 and has successfully renewed it every two years since then.

Bill Gross, K-State Salina aviation professor

Growing up on a farm in western Kansas led Gross down the natural career path of pursuing an animal science and ag education degree at K-State in Manhattan. But Gross just couldn’t forget his childhood days of accompanying his best friend’s father up in his plane. After teaching high school vocational agriculture for a few years, Gross spoke with his wife and decided to get his private flying license.

Gross has been a professor with K-State Salina since the fall of 1987 when it was called the Kansas Technical Institute and then briefly the Kansas College of Technology. Currently, he is the chief flight instructor teaching two classes a week, and he flies transportation for the university.

“I have the best view out of my office window,” Gross said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. And I enjoy watching each student grow and mature as they go through the program – I see a little bit of myself in them.”

Gross’ accreditation was renewed by Master Instructors LLC. He is one of nine Kansas State University faculty to have the prestigious Master CFI title.

K-State Salina partners with the Girl Scouts to host product design workshop

More than 59 million women in the United States call themselves alumnae of the Girl Scouts, and it’s easy to see why. Between making life-long friendships, learning respectful behavior and gaining valuable insight into a variety of subjects, a Girl Scout’s experience can transform her future. And with the organization focusing on female empowerment, a partnership with Kansas State University Salina is the perfect pairing.

A few weeks ago 35 third and fourth-graders from the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland along with their leaders and parents gathered together at K-State Salina for a sleepover; but this wasn’t a typical slumber party filled with gossip, movies and pranks. Instead, the girls participated in activities that would help them earn their product designer badge.

“The Salina campus and the Girl Scouts have been wanting to collaborate, and we’re excited that this event not only furthered the girls’ education on creating and testing a product, but it also hopefully opened their eyes to the array of industries females can work in,” Kirsten Zoller said, events coordinator for the office of continuing education.

One of the exercises Kirsten lead involved the girls picking out good and bad design elements of everyday household products. Once the positive and negative aspects of each product were identified, they were asked to think of ways to improve that item or find a new use for it. One girl suggested adding perfume to nail polish because of its strong odor while another group redesigned a water bottle so it functioned better on their bicycles.

Julia Morse, an engineering technology professor at K-State Salina, also spoke to the young girls about cultivating their ideas. She showed them the correct process to go through once they’ve created a product and how to test it to get the best results.

K-State Salina is always excited about connecting with the community. The continuing education office extends Kansas State University’s intellectual resources through quality programming such as workshops, summer programs and professional development courses.

K-State Salina aviation professor volunteers for a very sweet flight

 There are a variety of reasons why pilots take to the skies, and undoubtedly one of them is the enjoyment it brings. Although Drew Smith, an aviation professor at K-State Salina, loves to fly for the thrill of it, he often does it to bring others happiness. So when Smith’s daughter, Jessica, asked for her dad’s help with a special aviation project, he couldn’t say no.

Smith drops candy overhead as fifth-graders at SES scramble to retrieve the goodies. Photo credits: Stephanie Harris, Diane Reece and Cindy Mueller.

Jessica Smith is a senior at Sterling College and a student teacher at Southeast of Saline Elementary School. The fifth-graders she works with are currently reading a book called “Candy Bomber” – the story of a pilot that drops candy to children in Berlin post World War II. She thought it might be fun for the students to experience the same excitement as the kids in the book, so she asked her dad to play the part of the pilot. Although dropping candy at just the right time so it lands in just the right place might seem like a difficult task, Smith has had plenty of practice.

“I’ve actually dropped care packages to Jessica at school,” Smith said. “Sterling College doesn’t have a runway for me to land. So when her mom or I have something we want to bring her, I fly over to a designated area in Sterling and drop packages to her.”

Smith talked to his friend Ron Chandler about borrowing a plane and on Jan. 22, he and his wife took off in a RANS S6S Coyote II. Smith battled moderate winds that day and made sure to stay a safe distance from the crowd of children, parents and teachers that gathered on the Southeast of Salina football field.

As soon as the plane flew over the 50-yard line, Smith told his wife to tip the bucket for the candy drop. The fifth-grade class squealed with glee as the small packages of goodies floated to the ground. One of the parents shot a video of the fly-over and Smith says the children’s reactions are exactly why he wanted to take part in that day.

If you’d like to see the video, filmed by Kinsy McVay, visit K-State Salina’s Facebook page or the Unified School District 306 Facebook page.