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IU, NSA Crane enter landmark agreement focused on research, applied skills for students

Partnership enables IU to use Naval Support Activity Crane as a lab for applied research in various STEM fields

(This article originally appeared in the IU Newsroom:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Under a milestone pact, Indiana University students, faculty and researchers will use Naval Support Activity Crane as a lab for applied research in science, information technology, engineering, math, sustainability and other applied skills.

Through the NSA Crane Educational Partnership Agreement, IU students will apply their talents toward the challenges of operating a large naval base with diverse military missions. Initial projects include an energy-management study.

Along with IU's participation in research and studies at the base, including programs for academic credit, the partnership calls for NSA Crane to identify and take part in science projects and internships. IU will solicit students to participate in NSA Crane opportunities, seek partnerships with other IU campuses that benefit NSA Crane, provide occasional space for base functions and share on-campus computers for student-employee collaboration.

IU Vice President for Research Fred H. Cate and Navy Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, will sign the accord at a Wednesday ceremony set for 1:30 p.m. in the Wrubel Commons Conference Room of IU Bloomington’s Cyberinfrastructure Building at 2709 E. 10th St.   

"IU and Crane represent two of the largest economic drivers in southwest-central Indiana, and indeed the entire state, and this landmark agreement stands not only to benefit both institutions but to greatly strengthen Indiana's economic competitiveness," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who also signed the agreement. "Crane has long been an outstanding partner, and this agreement also provides a tremendous opportunity for our students and faculty to engage in vitally important research and to solve important real-world challenges."

Economic benefits

As part of several recommendations to improve the economy of southwest-central Indiana, a 2014 study by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice called for increased collaboration between IU Bloomington and the Crane complex. In 2011, IU signed an educational partnership agreement with Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane and added a partnership intermediary pact in 2012, with Wednesday's signing further expanding the IU-Crane relationship.

As "host" for major tenants NSWC-Crane and Crane Army Ammunition Activity, which perform electronic, engineering, research, production and logistics duties for the Navy, Army and other military clients, NSA Crane oversees facility, infrastructure and environmental needs for more than 3,000 structures, 500 miles of road and 90 miles of railway. This area spans 97 square miles of Martin, Greene and Lawrence counties and includes the Lake Glendora Test Facility in Sullivan County.

IU offers numerous professional programs and study fields with defense-related applications. Along with programs centered on STEM-based disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), other examples cited within the agreement include optometry, business administration, public and environmental affairs, media and journalism, and public health.

Next fall, a new engineering program based at IU Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing will begin to offer bachelor's and doctoral degrees, with a master's degree proposal soon to be developed. The bachelor's program will offer tracks in computer engineering, cyber-physical systems, bioengineering and molecular/nanoscale engineering. The doctoral program will also focus on these areas, along with environmental and neuro-engineering.

"Under this agreement, NSA Crane offers Indiana University an opportunity for academic research assistance while addressing the unique challenges associated with managing a world-class defense support facility," said IU Vice President for Engagement Bill Stephan. "In the process, we will seek to gain additional insights into Crane's needs and identify opportunities to tailor our education and research programming to better support Crane."

Initial project

This fall, a group of 15 graduate students from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs will spend the semester examining energy use at select NSA Crane facilities and applying behavioral-science tools designed to reduce energy use.

When applied to residence halls, classroom, lab and administration facilities at IU Bloomington, similar measures have lowered energy usage up to 20 percent, and those changes persisted for months after the interventions, said William M. Brown, IU's director of sustainability.

"We've seen this work on our own campus. Our students will bring skill sets to NSA Crane that they otherwise may not have access to," said Brown, an adjunct instructor with SPEA who will teach the course. "Among the things we plan to demonstrate is that applying behavioral science to influence energy conservation is cost-effective and scalable. The key lies in how to get people to change the way they think about using energy."

Additional requirements

Under the agreement, both institutions must fund their own initiatives and appoint liaisons to the partnership. IU personnel who require base access will receive ID cards pending proof of identity and background checks. By authority of the base commander, NSA Crane may loan equipment to IU for any purpose or time frame. IU also must submit annual reports to the base commander that outline the benefits of NSA Crane's contributions.

About Innovate Indiana:

Indiana University is designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. This recognizes IU's commitment across all its campuses to being a leading institution in fostering regional economic development. Led by IU's Office of the Vice President of Engagement, the university's Innovate Indiana initiative engages strategic partners to leverage and advance the university's intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana's economic growth, and contribute to the overall quality of life for Hoosiers.