April 16, 2007 Rotogram

WHAT’S NEW ON THE FARM FRONT

We’re pleased to welcome David Waide, President of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which in 2006 had a membership of more than 235,000 families.  

GSE TEAM FROM THE NETHERLANDS  

Next weekend, Starkville Rotary Club will host the Group Study Exchange from The Netherlands, that’s visiting District 6820 this month. The four-member GSE team and their Rotarian leader will get to see the Friday night MSU vs LSU baseball game from Left Field Lounge, visit the Cotton District Arts Festival on Saturday, and tour the MSU campus on Monday before joining us for Rotary. After Rotary, they’ll head west to visit Greenwood and other Delta Rotary Clubs.

LAST WEEK AT ROTARY

Invocation and Pledge: Grady Mitchener.

Attendance: There were 122 members (85 actives, 36 exempt, 1 honorary) present. Missing around the tables were 49 active, 18 exempt, and 5 honorary members.

Guests: Guests of members were Chris Latimer of George Sherman; Margaret Arnold Baehren and Hunter Steele Baehren, daughter and grandson of John Robert Arnold; and Phillip Murphy of Steve Langston. Club guests were Danny McKenzie (Aurora Flight Sciences); Ruth Schorling and Marie Baran (Exchange Students); Paul Sims (Starkville Daily News); and Skip Descant (Columbus Commercial Dispatch). They were introduced by VP President-Elect Chip Templeton.

Makeups: “Mo” Mohammednetadj in Sheffield, UK 3/30; Mark Guyton and Brent Fountain, Columbus, 4/03; and Gary D. Jackson, Winona, 4/06. “Mo” added a banner from Sheffield Rotary to our collection.

Meeting Notes: VP Ned Browning presided in the absence of President Larry Mullins. He reported that Ren Crowell has had to resume his battle against cancer and asked Rotarians to keep Ren and Marianne in our prayers.

He recognized Bricklee Miller for the successful programming of the Mississippi Horse Park, which in the first 3 months of the year has had an economic impact on our community topping $1 million.

Ned reminded Rotarians that Exchange Student Marie Baran would be joining Guy Hargrove and his daughter, Meg, at a recital that evening in Bettersworth Auditorium.

Postscript: It was an outstanding vocal concert by all three and Marie was a big hit!

A meeting of the GSE Committee and the team’s host families was held following adjournment of Rotary.

Roy Ruby’s “absolutely nothing to do with Rotary Minute” kept us laughing even longer than usual. What a great way to settle a good meal!

Rotary Minute: Tommy Prentice gave an update on the Katrina recovery efforts on the Coast. Volunteers are continuing to come from all over the United States. Tommy said that 110 volunteers reported in this week to the Methodist Church that’s coordinating the efforts in which our Club has been involved – 60 flying all the way from California to work.

“But funds are running short. Donations are down 80%. People have forgotten. There are still 30,000 FEMA trailers down there housing some 90,000 people. We’re getting about 250 per week out of trailers. At that rate, it will take 10 years to get the job done,” Tommy said. He hopes to put together a crew to go to the Coast to work sometime in May.

AURORA – IT’S NOT SCIENCE FICTION!

A line of new unmanned aircraft may sound like science fiction, but in reality, the products of the Golden Triangle’s newest industry are for real. We got a closer look at Aurora last week from new Rotarian Greg Stewart, manager of the local aerospace operation.

Before launching an interesting PowerPoint presentation on Aurora, Greg (who, as a new member had greeted Rotarians at the door) gave a brief sketch of his life before joining Aurora last September.

A Michigan native, Greg grew up in Indiana, completing high school in Ft. Wayne then going on to Purdue. “I had planned to go to Ohio State and major in physics,” he explained, “but I looked more closely at computer science, figured it was a lot easier, and went to Purdue.” For 30 years he served the financial industry in computer systems design, the last 20 years in Minneapolis.

His hobby was building and flying radio-controlled airplanes, a hobby that eventually resulted in his joining Aurora.

“I first met John Langford in 1972 at a model rocket contest in Ohio” and the friendship and competition began. (Langford, who had been at MIT, founded Aurora Flight Sciences in Alexandria, VA, in 1989.) Greg had two of his models at Rotary – impressive!

Stewart didn’t spend a great deal of time on Aurora’s history other than to say the company was highly successful in design and manufacture of high altitude unmanned systems originally used for global climate change research.

Since its first successful aircraft’s initial flight in 1991, Aurora grew rapidly in UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) design and manufacture. It has facilities in Manassas, VA, Bridgeport, WV, and Cambridge, MA, serving many of the major defense contractors.

Mississippi State’s expertise in research and development of lightweight composite materials attracted Aurora’s interest and the company opened its manufacturing facility at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory in March 2005 while it planned for the plant which has now been completed.

When Langford called Stewart last Fall and said he’d like him to come down and manage the GTR operation, Greg said he didn’t give it a second thought. “I’d rather fail at that than be successful in anything else,” he exclaimed. He came to Starkville last September. (It’s no secret that folks in Columbus are trying to get him to settle permanently there!)

UAV’s are self-piloted, self-controlled aircraft for missions you don’t want to send pilots into, according to Stewart. Since 9/11, interest in UAV’s has intensified both for military tactical use and for homeland security. Aurora has three major focuses: design and manufacture of tactical systems, application of UAV’s for science and research, and design and construction of aerostructure components.

“Our headquarters are at Manassas with most of our engineers. The research and development center is at Cambridge, and production is at the plant in Clarksburg, WV,” he explained. “Our GTR plant will produce prototypes and core programs.”

Stewart’s PowerPoint presentation gave Rotarians a quick look at Aurora’s family of UAV’s. The Golden Eye 50 is for close in troop support. The Golden Eye 80 is a larger strange looking wingless aircraft which can hover and is used for unit support and to designate targets. In 2002, a prototype of the MarsFlyer (designed for flight on Mars) set an altitude record when it flew to 101,000 feet. One of its newest aircraft is the Excalibur, a turbine-powered heavy- fueled unmanned combat vehicle now in its final design stages.

At the GTR facility, Aurora plans to manufacture an innovative hydrogen-powered UAV named the Orion HALL. It has a 130-foot wingspan, is powered by a modified Ford engine, and will be able to operate at 65,000 feet for 100 hours.

Greg says the local plant has 22 employees and aims to have 35-40 by the end of the year. “We’re focusing on the local area. We need folks who can build composite airplanes – it’s a craftsman skill.”

The core Aurora team had worked together for nearly 20 years before Langford founded the company. “We’re building for the future and making a difference; working to preserve American leadership in aeronautics,” Stewart concluded.

He responded to several questions and announced that the plant will hold a Grand Opening May 21. Stu Vance introduced the interesting and exciting program.

ACTIONS BY THE BOARD

The resignation of Kirk Schultz, whose new administrative responsibilities prevent him from attending Rotary, was accepted with regret.

Leaves of absence were granted to Terry Thomas, Betty Black, and Ren Crowell.

Honorary Life Membership status has been awarded to four longtime members who have been unable to attend for reasons of their health or that of their spouse. Honorary Life Members are Fred McCrory, Erie Staggers, Horace Harned, and John Paul Moore.

ITEMS NEED FOR E-BAY AUCTION

John Simpson, Briar Jones, and the Community Service Committee are still seeking items for the fund-raising E-Bay Auction. It’s reported that you can sell just about anything on E-Bay so this is a good chance to get rid of things you no longer need or want that someone somewhere will be willing to buy! If you have questions or something to donate call John at 324-2590 or email him at < . >

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