Momentum Member Spotlight – April 2011
AIAA Congratulates Mike Markowski
By: Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected Mr. Mike Markowski for its Member Spotlight for April, 2011. Markowski is an AIAA Senior Member and President and CEO of Possibility Press/Aeronautical Publishers in Hummelstown, PA. He was selected for this month’s Spotlight for his commitment to promote STEM education, especially aerospace education, to today’s youth, and for his bold vision for revitalizing the importance of aerospace in American society.
Besides his efforts to promote STEM education, Markowski is best known in aeronautical circles for his efforts to develop and advance ultralight aviation, including hanggliding. Markowski was featured on the cover of the December, 1974, edition of the Scientific American magazine, for a story detailing his innovations in hangglider design and flight science. He also co-founded the first two hangglider manufacturing firms on the east coast and ran a flight school. In 1982 he wrote a cover story on ultralight aircraft for the July issue of Scientific American, and has spent a lifetime promoting sport aviation to the public. For his pioneering efforts in ultralight aviation, as well as its promotion, and to recognize his authorship and publishing of several important texts in the field of ultralight aviation, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) inducted Markowski to its Hall of Fame in 2007.
Markowski’s interest in aerospace goes back to his high school days, where he designed a series of wind and smoke tunnels to further his knowledge about aeronautics and flight. His wind tunnels and the testing he did, some of it cutting edge, received numerous media citations, and won top awards at several science fairs throughout the state, leading to Markowski being named the “Most Outstanding Science Student in Pennsylvania” by then-Governor Scranton, who awarded Mike a four-year scholarship to study aerospace engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. It was at Penn State that Mike found AIAA, joining the student branch there, becoming an officer.
When asked how he felt organizations like AIAA benefited engineering professionals, Markowski pointed out that AIAA plays a key role in keeping professionals up-to-date on the latest developments and technology in the aerospace field. He lauded the ability of AIAA, and other organizations, to bring together like-minded professionals at their events to promote the exchange of ideas, and to facilitate international cooperation in problem solving which advances the overall state of the industry. Markowski stated that “only through a commitment to personal as well as leadership development, can we expect the aerospace engineering workforce to develop the skills necessary to lead the nation to the next generation of aircraft and flight technology.” Markowski also noted that AIAA should do more to reach out to the hanggliding, ultralight, and light sport aircraft communities, perhaps through inclusion of articles on those realms of flight and technology in the Journal of Aircraft, or through the creation of a Program or Technical Committee on ultralight aircraft and light sport aircraft technology and flight within AIAA’s Technical Activities Committee framework.
Markowski’s primary passion in aerospace is reaching out to students and other young people about the importance of aerospace and STEM in our nation. He noted that when he talks to students and young professionals who are starting out in the aerospace industry, he counsels them to know what they want their life to be about! He stated that only by knowing what their visions are, and having a clear idea about what they want to accomplish, will young people be able to make a difference to the future of aerospace. He stresses that in order to really advance the state-of-the-art in aerospace, designers, engineers and scientists need to dream big, and pursue those dreams with vigor. He also encourages anyone thinking about making aerospace a profession to engage in aerospace related hobbies: learning to fly a hangglider, ultralight, light sport, or a traditional light aircraft, building and experimenting with model airplanes and rockets, so that they come to the profession with a personal attachment to aeronautics and flight, rather than just the academic connection they gained through their studies. It is the personal connection to and personal passion for aerospace that will enable engineers and scientists to achieve the next great steps in aerospace, according to Markowski.
Markowski concluded his remarks by laying out a vision for better engagement of today’s youth by noting that we need to do more to promote the “cool” factor in aerospace. He stated that while the creation of the next generation of aerospace professionals is vital for our nation, it will take more than just singular efforts in isolated classrooms across our nation to produce the next workforce. NASA, aerospace firms, and other companies attached to the industry need to open their doors to kids, offer them tours of their launch and manufacturing facilities, have dynamic engineers visit their classrooms to speak to them and inspire them, and do everything they can to hook kids on aerospace. He argued that aerospace professionals need to make it a priority to individually visit as many classrooms as they can, and to engage in discussions with every younger person they find about the importance of aerospace, in order to capture the imagination of today’s youth and point them toward the profession. He also stated that he feels that the public often forgets about the tremendous good that the aerospace industry has done for it in everyday product spinoffs, and that it is our responsibility to go out and remind the public of that good as often as we can.
AIAA congratulates Mike Markowski for his many contributions to aerospace, for his unflagging support of continued outreach to America’s young people on the importance of STEM education, and for his inspiration and bold message for our industry to keep reminding the public about the good we do, and the future we can create for all Americans. AIAA congratulates Mike Markowski on his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for April 2011. The Institute also wishes him much success in his next two aviation projects: writing his memoir and having an inspiring feature-length film produced based on it to spur interest in aviation, aerospace, and STEM.