Ohio University Digital Design Studio in Beavercreek may benefit Wright-Patterson, defense contractors

Ohio University aims to embed digital engineering education in the heart of Air Force research and acquisition

BEAVERCREEK — Ohio University is planning a Digital Design Studio at the school’s Russ Research Center in Beavercreek even as the school’s foundation plans to sell the property where the center is located.

The university’s Digital Design Studio would offer space for digital engineering research and education, including classes for Ohio University students, and on-the-job training for Air Force personnel and defense contractors near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“Digital engineering is the future for the Air Force and the military in general. The interesting thing is the dual-use capabilities that flow into the commercial sector for business and industry is just as powerful and just as important to the future,” said Mickey McCabe, senior executive director for research partnerships at Ohio University.

Though some elements of the engineering field have made the migration to digital, the project management side of things is still done with 20- to 40-year-old methods in many cases. Digital design engineering streamlines the process of lifecycle management by creating a single data thread through which any asset can be tracked, McCabe said

“In the last 10-15 years, it’s noticeable that our enemies are using technology to increase the speed of development, and reducing the cost of development to systems and military. We’re falling behind. Design engineering is out to change that,” McCabe said.

In addition, the new tools allow engineers to design, test and prototype everything digitally. The design studio can be used by industries or the Air Force to solve problems in a digital environment, shorten the time to design a part, or develop a technical modification for a part in a fraction of the time it may have taken using traditional CAD tools and spreadsheets. This streamlined process is something the university says their curriculum should reflect.

“There’s a whole body of work coming out of the Air Force and the base that is driving a lot of work in Dayton area, specifically as it relates to life cycle management,” said Scott Miller, associate dean for industry partnerships at OU. “It’s a huge effort and an opportunity to serve as a resource for the Air Force and its contractors, while also presenting learning opportunities for our students and faculty.”

Equipping the local workforce with these tools means there is “absolutely” the potential for skilled job growth in the Miami Valley, McCabe said, adding that having skilled professionals in the area would be a “magnet of company attraction” from outside Ohio.

“You can only imagine how digital engineering will change this area,” he said. “Once these training tools are set up and people can learn what these software packages have to offer, Dayton is going to be a center of that.”

The Russ Research Center is located in a 60-acre industrial park built between 1955 and 1970, owned by the Ohio University Foundation. The foundation’s Board of Trustees recommended the sale of the Russ Research Center property in November. The sale would allow the “capacity of the facility to be maximized through commercial development,” per university documents, and proceeds from the sale would benefit the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens.

McCabe said that Ohio University “is looking into the future,” adding that the university was seeing challenging times for enrollment, with inflated costs and reduced revenue.

As it stands, the Russ College will be renting the space from the OU Foundation until the property is sold. If it is bought, the buyer would then have to honor that long-term lease.

The Digital Design Studio is labeled a priority in the list of Dayton Region Priority Development and Advocacy Committee (PDAC) finalists, among defense projects that will make the most significant impact in the Dayton region.

In its application to the PDAC process, Ohio University said it’s seeking $1.5 million in funding for facilities upgrades, with a total project cost of $5 million. Renovations would allow the studio to “accommodate Air Force related work, such as ‘design sprints’ and other acquisition/sustainment activities,” per the project proposal.

Tech giants PTC, Siemens and Dell are also making contributions of software, computer workstations and servers to both the Russ Research Center and the Athens campus valued at over $1 million.

Ohio University has not regularly offered classes for OU students at the center. The space has been used for workshops, and rented out to commercial partners. As part of the Digital Design Studio, Ohio University students could be studying at Russ Research Center this fall.

Greene County commissioners wrote a letter of support for the project in December.

“This is exactly the kind of investment that needs to be made to contribute to the new, state-of-the-art methods so that our Air Force can create, design, develop and field new systems and products with higher efficiency and reduced costs,” commissioners wrote.

Located at 2670 Indian Ripple Road in Beavercreek Twp., the campus was given to OU by the late Fritz and Dolores Russ in 2008. The donation of the research center was part of a $124 million gift from the Russes to OU, according to news reports at the time.

where it will offer digital engineering studies necessary for employers like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

even as the Ohio University Foundation voted put the property up for sale last year.

where it will offer digital engineering studies necessary for employers like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

even as the Ohio University Foundation voted put the property up for sale last year.

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