UND’s new virtual reality flight simulator will be a highlight of the university’s Aerospace Community Day this weekend.
The third annual event includes tours of UND’s aerospace school and hands-on projects for attendees to learn more about aviation and the atmosphere.
Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the campus’ Aerospace building and at UND’s flight operations at the Grand Forks International Airport. The event, which is free and open to all, goes until 3 p.m.
More than 3,000 people attended the event in 2019, according to UND. At the entrances, attendees will check in and pick up an Aerospace Passport. Free transportation will be provided to UND Flight Operations at the airport from Clifford Hall throughout the day.
Courtney Olson, an event organizer, said the aerospace school often gets requests for tours and learning sessions, but it doesn't always have the manpower to conduct them.
“They’re coming to Community Day, which is nice, so people can come in and see what we do here,” she said.
New to this year’s event is the recently unveiled Virtual Reality Lab in Odegard Hall, which features immersive flight stations.
The new VR simulator has been in the works for about two years, Kyle Weller, a sophomore majoring in commercial aviation, said. It was officially opened earlier this semester.
“It’s fully immersive VR flight (simulations),” Weller said. “This allows you to look fully behind you and all the way around.”
The simulator is available for students to use for free and simulates the planes UND already uses. The technology can be set for any kind of weather, location or problem that may occur during a flight.
Event attendees will have an opportunity to sit down and use the simulator on Saturday.
Another VR experience hosted in space studies “will take participants to the stars,” according to a UND press release. Attendees will have the opportunity to hold lunar rocks, on loan from NASA, brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts.
Also new this year will be the “Doppler on wheels,” which is on loan to the university from the Center for Severe Weather Research in Colorado. The DOW is being used for research conducted at UND. The mobile radar station, sought after nationwide, will be at the airport.
Beth Bjerke, associate dean of UND Aerospace, said she thinks of the day as “a pop-up air and space museum” that shows the community all that’s happening at UND.
“This has proven to be a great way for us to open our doors and invite the public to learn about what’s happening at UND, all while giving them hands-on aerospace experiences,” she said.