Mikhail Pogosyan: MAI Trains an Elite of Engineering Personnel

18 March 2020

Mikhail Pogosyan: MAI Trains an Elite of Engineering Personnel

Future aircraft designer: who is he? How to train aircraft engineers today? When will airship pilots and drone traffic controller appear? And how can a student get to Baikonur? Rector of Moscow Aviation Institute, Academician Mikhail Pogosyan, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta about these issues, and not only about them. 

Mikhail Aslanovich, let's start with the most “burning” question: in connection with the threat of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Education and Science recommended that universities transfer to distance learning. Is the university ready for such a turn of events?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Absolutely. Moscow Aviation Institute has a developed online learning system that allows to effectively carry out educational activities in almost full volume. I want to note that online education is a whole environment that allows not only to remotely provide knowledge, but also to maintain full contact of a student with a teacher. By the way, since the beginning of March, our international students who were not able to enter Russia have already transferred to distance learning. And on March 16, in accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Science, I decided to transfer all students to online education.

“Youth, on a plane!”, “Learn aircraft engineering!” ... These are the most popular slogans from the 30s of the last century, when Moscow Aviation Institute was founded. And what are the slogans at Moscow Aviation Institute today, after 90 years?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Since the 30s, aircraft manufacturing, and from the beginning of the 60s - spacecraft engineering, have become the main priorities for the development of high-tech industries. They maintain these positions, but today the development of the aerospace industry is inextricably linked with information technology. On the one hand, it expands opportunities, but on the other, it complicates the task of choosing a professional and educational trajectory. Therefore, it is possible to attract talented youth to the university only by designing the future in the high-tech industry together. 

Who is your current prospective student?

Mikhail Pogosyan: The youth of today chooses not only the education system, but their future. Previously, there was a “stable trajectory of flight” with clearly defined capabilities: university - placement - work at one of the enterprises in the aerospace industry. Now there are much more opportunities: they are seeking knowledge and skills at Moscow Aviation Institute that will allow them to be flexible in their careers. They want to achieve success in the aerospace industry, IT-companies, and in small business. Engineering training provides an opportunity to prove yourself in various fields. This has always been a characteristic and advantage of MAI.

We train specialists who can meet the challenges of the future. We train the elite of engineering personnel.

MAI is one of the three leaders in the training of specialists in the field of IT-technologies among Moscow universities. What are the most popular destinations at the interface of IT and aviation?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Over the past two years, we have launched new programs in the field of information technology: artificial intelligence, cybersecurity of information communications, digital production management, virtual reality, the Internet of things. We are looking at how these technologies can be revealed in real developments in the field of aviation, space and other directions.

Another rapidly developing area is mathematical modeling. Here MAI has extensive experience in certification of aviation systems. The difficult challenges of mathematical modeling requires the training of specialists who, along with engineering tasks, can deeply understand the capabilities of modern information technologies.

Even super technologies live today at most three years. How do you adapt university programs?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Our competitive advantage is the focus on close cooperation with industrial partners. We assemble multidisciplinary teams with the participation of youth, where there are also engineers in specific areas, IT specialists, economists who can look comprehensively at the development of new projects. We develop short-term courses that allow to get basic knowledge in a new field in 1-3 months, and then independently develop in this direction. Thus, a new educational environment is formed, which educates not so much an engineer as a person who is successful in the digital world, in the changing environment.

What fundamentally new technologies do you teach the students for?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Product lifecycle management, simulation - these technologies have already appeared and allow to optimize complex technical processes. A significant increase in the computing power of supercomputers allows us to solve fundamentally new challenges at the very early stages of development. Speaking about new technologies in production, I would note the development of additive technologies, composite constructions, robotization of production, increasing the level of electrification of engineering systems, the integration of avionics, the development of artificial intelligence systems ... All these will make it possible to predict deviations of the structural behavior from normal operating modes.

The future of space technology is seen in the creation of global information satellite systems, automatic spacecraft, satellite constellations, providing integrated space services.

Is today not only a diploma valued, but also additional skills?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Absolutely. Individual educational trajectory is a modern trend. The important thing is not just a diploma, for example, in mechanical engineering in aircraft industry, but also design skills at a given cost are needed. Project management is another advantage to the engineer’s diploma. One of the most important competitive factors in our industry is product service, product life cycle management. These are only a small part of the knowledge around basic programs, which determines the individual trajectory of each student.

The atlas of new professions gives a forecast until 2035: there will be a pilot of airships, a drone traffic controller, a developer of infrastructure for aeronautics ... Is this possible?

Mikhail Pogosyan: We are just working on creating an image of the future transport infrastructure. Most of our country has a low population density, and to ensure the cohesion of the territory, innovative vehicles are also needed, including new-generation airships and drones.

Do you have a personal forecast for the next five years: who will be most in-demand in the aerospace industry?

Mikhail Pogosyan: There can be no doubt: experts in those new areas that I have already mentioned will be in demand. Along with this, an important task is the design of transport systems using unmanned technologies. Hypersonic, supersonic technologies will determine the competitiveness of the industry in the next five years. And after 2030, more revolutionary changes will begin.

What kind?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Perhaps, non-traditional aerodynamiс configurations of aircraft will appear. For this we need people who can see the picture of the future, create a list of critical technologies. Those, who have a comprehensive vision, interdisciplinary knowledge and are not afraid of new challenges.

One fifth of MAI students are target students. Who are the employers?

Mikhail Pogosyan: The main employers are the United Aircraft Corporation, Russian Helicopters, Technodinamika, Roscosmos, and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The new rules of targeted admission, which increase the responsibility of both the student and the employer, of course, have made many students to take a more responsible approach to choosing a future profession.

Until 2024, the number of international students in Russian universities should double. Last year, 600 foreigners entered MAI. What do they learn?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Aircraft, spacecraft, propulsion engineering, IT. In these areas of training, we also offer English-medium programs. In addition, we pay great attention to double degree programs with leading universities, primarily in People’s Republic of China. The MAI branch in Baikonur is developing.

Is it important for Rector to find exactly “his” student?

Mikhail Pogosyan: We strive to ensure that students come to MAI consciously. We carry out career guidance events in which more than 25 thousand schoolchildren are involved: olympiads, project events, thematic shifts at Artek and Sirius, tours to enterprises. And it gives good results. The average result of the Unified State Examination of our applicants has grown by more than 10 points. Last year, a secondary school was opened at Moscow Aviation Institute - Pre-University School for 8–11 grades, where there are already more than 150 pupils. This year, we will accept about 200 more schoolchildren. The interest is great.

And how do you select those who enter the Pre-University School?

Mikhail Pogosyan: We follow those who participate in relevant Olympiads, we come to schools with lectures and master classes. The brain of a high school student has already been tooled for the Unified State Examination, it is difficult to interest him from scratch. Therefore, our audience is the primary school, and sometimes first graders. We tell you what opportunities aviation and space provide, what technologies will determine future development, show drone shows, make models of airplanes together, rockets, drones.

Among MAI graduates, in addition to 23 cosmonauts and legendary aircraft designers, there are diplomats, artists and writers. Why do you think so?

Mikhail Pogosyan: Engineering training gives a person a comprehensive view to the challenge. Systematicity, logic based on good mathematical preparation, work. But the environment and atmosphere of creative interaction, which MAI has been famous for 90 years, are no less important. Our talents are revealed, and anyone who is truly passionate about their work can succeed. They go for knowledge and skills at Moscow Aviation Institute, that will allow them to be flexible in their careers.

Photo: Sergey Mikheev

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

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