Flight Operations Center – Unified Simulation (FOCUS) Lab
The FOCUS Lab is a NASA funded research project which is designed to better prepare the next generation of aviation professionals. The Principal Investigator of the project is Dr. Paul Craig. Craig has been the PI on a total of four NASA grant projects since 2003. In the FOCUS Lab, he leads a team of a dozen Graduate and Undergraduate assistants from MTSU's Aerospace and Psychology Departments, and the TLSAMP program.
The basic research of the project involves the interactions between aviation professionals. These interactions can produce smooth and safe operations for passengers, profits for employers and economic benefits for the nation and the world – or these interactions can yield chaos, frustration, and loss of revenue. This research is using a new teaching methodology to better prepare graduates to maximize the benefits of these interactions.
Today, students are trained in various disciplines of aviation in isolated clusters. The pilots train with pilots, the maintenance technicians with other technicians, dispatchers with dispatchers, controllers with controllers, and so forth. Prospective employees are coming to the job market through independent "silos" of training, but this training does not always reflect the way operations run in the real world. Once students enter the job market, they realize that success and efficiency depend on cross-disciplinary communications and understanding. By dismantling the "silos," we want to prepare the next generation of aviation professionals in a real-world environment and enable employees to perform better on the job from the first day of hire.
One of the places where all aviation disciplines intersect would be in an airline's Flight Operation Center – sometimes called the "war room." The MTSU Aerospace Department built a replica of such a Flight Operation Center – called the FOCUS Lab – and within that lab students operate a virtual airline – Universal e-Lines.