Helping develop the technology talent of our next generation is something Dalibor Djuran, E-Space’s chief satellite systems engineer, believes is critically important for the future of aerospace and communications. Having recently started at E-Space, Djuran brings with him not only a great depth of knowledge about space, flying and technology but also a long track record of helping children and young adults pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education tracks.
Much of his involvement in inspiring youth has been with the Patriot Jets Team Foundation (PJTF), a nonprofit organization that works to get children and young adults interested in aviation, space and STEM topics. Operating in California’s Central Valley and San Francisco East Bay, PJTF offers real-world experiences where students do everything from launching rockets to learning to fly planes.
Djuran, himself a pilot for five years, now heads up PJTF’s program focused on educating and encouraging young adults to pursue careers in space and technology. That includes flying drones, a passion of Djuran’s.
“At PJTF, we foster an environment where students can learn, interact and engage first-hand with space and flight technologies to understand the importance of the space domain and aerospace systems,” he says. “By making this connection early in a student’s life, they can realize that they, too, can be change-makers and help protect Earth from climate change, space debris in orbit and more.”
An all-volunteer organization that has served the community for a decade, PJTF offers students experiences that can be both valuable and life changing.
“We’re dedicated to getting students excited about aviation, space and STEM subjects and careers through our school outreach programs, learning center activities, mentorship and scholarships,” says Don Paiva, PJTF executive director. “They're free, innovative programs that also instill the importance of leadership, teamwork, commitment and community service.”
He says volunteers like Djuran are key to the organization’s mission.
“We attribute our success to a very supportive, community-based culture,” Paiva says. “Volunteers are one of our most valuable resources.”
In addition to existing programs, he says PJTF has even more coming soon.
“Looking ahead, we plan to offer college engineering scholarships and build a robotics and engineering workplace at our Learning Center.”
Lately, the PJTF’s educational partner – Patriots Jet Team (PJT) – has been in the spotlight due to its involvement with several high-profile film projects — including Top Gun Maverick and two upcoming Mission: Impossible films. Actor Tom Cruise has tapped some of the pilots associated with the PJT (and who are also Foundation volunteers) to help with the flying sequences in the Top Gun sequel and the upcoming MI projects.
The PJTF space program, Djuran says, includes a full-year advanced-placement high school course where students form their own hypothetical companies to learn everything from running a business to research and development and even up to the technology required to design a satellite constellation.
“This program provides real-world experiences to many students from a variety of backgrounds and communities, including less-advantaged areas where kids never thought they could become pilots or get involved in space and STEM activities,” Djuran says. “Through PJTF, we can enrich the lives of many through education and inspiration.”
Djuran supports the PJTF with curriculum development, program implementation and instruction — including a recent visit from students at the Merrill F. West High School Space & Engineering Academy in Tracy, CA. They visited the PJTF Learning Center at Byron Airport and participated in a flight simulator experience, facility tour and education sessions about next-generation aviation along with new technologies, space and satellites.
Bringing space to the Balkans
Djuran is also associated with the Serbian Case for Space Foundation, an organization devoted to bringing more aerospace jobs and growing a space industry in the Balkan region.
“Many Balkan countries lack access to space,” says Djuran, who grew up in the former Yugoslavia. “The focus of the foundation is to empower people in the region to engage in space-based opportunities — from creating space business models to building modernized satellite systems.”
Djuran says the effort, while in its early days, is exciting and he’s encouraged that many of its members are making connections with industry, government and academia with the goal to develop localized aerospace programs.
“The Foundation creates a platform for cooperation so people can experience, benefit and gain value from the space industry.”
Bringing experiences to E-Space
Djuran says, with both efforts — PJTF and the Serbian Case for Space Foundation — we have a global opportunity to promote and add valuable talent to the global space, telecom and aerospace sectors.
“As we know, there’s always a need for rising talent, so promoting that through STEM programs or creating new markets will both be essential,” Djuran says. “At E-Space, we’re always looking for ways to encourage new thinking in the industry. We are masters of change, looking to empower people and industry to be curious and question traditional thinking. If we can excite youth and new markets, like people in the Balkans, to think beyond traditional ideas – the whole space industry will benefit.”