An education partnership agreement announced May 11, 2011, in Pablo, Mont., between Salish Kootenai College and the US Navy has roots in Bozeman, Mont.
TechLink, located at Montana State University in Bozeman, helped to establish this first-of-its-kind partnership between the Navy and Salish Kootenai College (SKC), one of the nation’s leading tribal colleges. This partnership will enable SKC students and faculty to participate in summer internships at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, R.I. It also will help Native-American graduates to join the high-tech workforce in Montana.
TechLink previously assisted Missoula-based startup company, TerraEchos, in licensing a novel acoustic-sensor invention from the Navy. TerraEchos is owned by S&K Technologies, a federally chartered corporation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
The Navy invention uses a laser to turn a fiber-optic cable into a long listening device. It was originally developed for use by Navy submarines. TerraEchos has turned this invention into a sophisticated low-cost surveillance system called Adelos. Adelos is designed to increase border security and help protect critical facilities, "things like oil and gas refineries, nuclear reactors, dams," explained Dr. Alex Philp, president of TerraEchos. "We bury fiber-optic cable into the ground around such facilities for two, three, five miles, whatever it takes. Then we hook it up to a sophisticated laser system that shoots light down the fiber."
The partnership between the Navy and Salish Kootenai College will help train students in acoustic sensor technology, preparing them for employment in TerraEchos or other Montana high-tech companies. In a news release issued by NUWC, Dr. Paul J. Lefebvre, technical director, stated that the agreement “permits NUWC to actively participate in the education of scientists and engineers who will enter the workforce over the next decade.”
“This is an example of the type of win-win partnership that TechLink strives to facilitate here in Montana, the region, and the nation,” said Dr. Will Swearingen, executive director of TechLink. TechLink is a unique organization funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) to transfer government-patented inventions to the private sector. TechLink currently brokers over half of all of DoD licensing agreements with industry nationwide.