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Art contest designed to inspire next generation of aerospace leaders

Art contest designed to inspire next generation of aerospace leaders

APRIL 22, 2021 — The finalists have been selected for a first-year program that uses the mind’s eye to get more South Texas students interested in becoming future aerospace engineers.

UTSA and the Dee Howard Foundation partnered with local, state and national organizations to host the DHF/UTSA Pre-K thru 12 Aviation and Aerospace Art Contest. The Mission to Mars theme is timely with NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover on the red planet conducting experiments that could pave the way for earthlings to inhabit the planet.

Students from Bexar, Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina and Wilson counties were asked to illustrate what a human mission to Mars would look like to them. Their ideas were reviewed by a panel of 26 judges. The finalists were announced during a virtual awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 20. The artwork will soon be framed and displayed at the San Antonio International Airport.

“There are aviation art contests elsewhere, but I wanted to make this unique to the San Antonio region.”

“We are very grateful to the Dee Howard Foundation for partnering with us on the art contest. To make bold moves in our desire to explore our solar system, engineers will have to work intimately with other academic disciplines,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, who also participated in awards ceremony opening remarks. “This art contest highlights such a partnership — art and creativity with technical inspiration.” 

“It was a wonderful collaborative relationship and we could not have done it without UTSA,” said Wayne Fagan, chair of the Dee Howard Foundation. “We now have the infrastructure and working relationships in place for future contests.”

Dee Howard is regarded as San Antonio’s foremost aviation pioneer — building, retrofitting and maintaining aircraft for more than 50 years. His legacy continues through the Dee Howard Foundation. As the nonprofit’s leader, Fagan wanted to develop an opportunity to connect students with Howard’s passion for aviation. Many students like art classes, Fagan thought, so why not tap into their creativity to generate interest and excitement in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM classes — essential for aviation and aerospace.

"There are many examples of people interested in art who are also very good in science, so I wanted to connect those two dots,” Fagan said. “There are aviation art contests elsewhere, but I wanted to make this unique to the San Antonio region, linking Mr. Howard’s contributions to our city, while also making this appealing to minority and female students in our area.”

Fagan said it’s important for local students to identify with successful aviation and aerospace professionals that share their gender or ethnic backgrounds. The awards ceremony included a diverse selection of inspiring speakers to serve as role models. Of note, San Antonio native Bernard A. Harris, Jr., a two-time shuttle astronaut and first African American to walk in space, was the event’s honorary mission commander.

“There's an excitement about having someone they can relate to who's African American or Latino, or a woman, telling their story and then get interested in science,” Fagan said. “Maybe those kids are motivated to do well in school and pursue a college education."

With numerous aerospace-related operations doing business in San Antonio, the Alamo City is emerging as an important hub in the industry. UTSA and Dee Howard have a strong partnership in leveraging the university’s engineering and science colleges to prepare the future aviation and aerospace workforce. Talented faculty are leading cutting-edge research in the field. Examples include Chris Combs, Dee Howard Endowed assistant professor in Aerodynamics in the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering and the NASA-funded, Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments. In 2020, Fagan and his wife established the Wayne and Julie Fagan Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering.

The Dee Howard Foundation believes art contests like Mission to Mars can encourage more students to get interested in STEM classes and take advantage of what UTSA and San Antonio offers to pursue careers in aerospace or aviation.

Bruce Forey

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