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SEATTLE - Washington state's Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation or JCATI has invested more than $1.36 million in some 18 aerospace research projects at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University.

The program was established in 2012 by the state legislature and the governor's office as a way to give a boost to the state's leading edge in aerospace research. All of the state's four year institutions are eligible for grants.

In a conference at the U.W. campus under the title Innovate Washington, students, faculty and industry representatives learned about students research projects and listened to a host of speakers which included Bobak Ferdowsi, the flight engineer for NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover and U.W. Aeronautics and Astronautics graduate.

Ferdowski became a sensation during shots from the mission control center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory because of his Mohawk-style haircuts that could be seen on live TV feeds during the mission.

Projects carried out with the help of JCATI grants include design of plasma electric rocket motors at the U.W.s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, cutting edge use of hydrogen powered electric fuel cells that could keep planes aloft for 16 hours along with a host of projects in biofuel, and composite technologies. Boeing used composites to build the 787 Dreamliner.

Organizers say the program is important to keep the state's leading edge in aerospace technology that will maintain the state's big aerospace companies in workforce.

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