Mercer’s Engineering Research Center (MERC) was awarded a $12.4 million grant last month by the U.S. Air Force. For those of you who don’t know, the MERC is the non-profit research and applied engineering branch of Mercer University.
The research center is located in Warner Robins, Ga., about ten miles south of Macon, outside Robins Air Force Base. The MERC conducts fact-based research for government agencies and other commercial entities who fund their research.
There are approximately 180 staff at the center, and a majority of that staff is made up of student researchers, interns and Mercer alumni. These Mercerians gain career opportunities and experience, working alongside professional engineers in a multitude of real world engineering disciplines.
These students have the chance to work on cutting-edge technology, and sometimes even classified information. The funding from the Air Force is going into research to prolong the lives of aging rotary aircraft. MERC researchers are looking for ways to extend the use and structural integrity of the “old” helicopters, whether through analyzing structural decay, mechanical failure, aerodynamics, etc.
According to the dean of engineering, Wade Shaw, this $12.4 million will make up about a third of the center’s research for the year. The dean explained that generally about $20 to $30 million dollars worth of research goes on at the MERC every year, and that this was just a very large investment among the multitude of research being conducted already.
Shaw explained that the MERC has research in fields including mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electronics engineering, materials engineering, computer information systems, program management, software engineering, mathematics, logistics, physics, rehabilitation engineering, industrial engineering, environmental engineering and biomedical engineering.
Because of this diversity, and the large demand for the kind of research MERC provides, Mercer students, particularly engineers, are allowed opportunities to participate in changing the world in a very real way. The cutting edge is a pretty interesting place to work.
The MERC has been working closely with Robins Air Force Base and the Air Force since it opened its doors in 1987. The MERC has also partnered with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, all of whose money allow for more Mercer engineering research and learning options.
Other than the Department of Defense, some of the companies providing capital to allow for these opportunities are Boeing, Raytheon, Lockhead Martin and Northrup Grummen. These engineering heavy hitters are mostly known as military contractors, but that does not by any means signify that all research conducted at the MERC has a military application.
This grant and others like it allow for the engineering and learning opportunities Mercer students thrive in. For students who are looking to get involved in engineering opportunities at the MERC, you can visit the website at http://www.merc-mercer.org/, or you could direct your questions to your professors or the dean of engineering, Wade Shaw.