OPL makes its research facilities available to visitors, including K-12 and college-age groups, campus teams, lawmakers, community organizations, industry partners, and many others curious about STEM fields. 

OPL tour among Honored Engineering Alumni events on April 11

College of Engineering alumni and friends on campus for the Honored Engineering Alumni events were treated to a tour of the Operator Performance Lab. OPL Director Tom "Mach" Schnell explained the origins and purpose of the lab's fleet of aircraft and other instruments. The visit occurred on April 11. 


Community Leadership Program visits OPL on Feb. 9

This year’s Greater Iowa City, Inc.’s Community Leadership Program (CLP) class toured OPL. This is a yearly class of leaders in the community who embark on both leadership development and the major sectors that make up our community. Sessions focus on topics ranging from health care to agriculture, human services to arts and culture. Each session is designed and facilitated by a programming committee and session leaders who are experts in their fields. These volunteers constantly update the program’s content and activities based on participant feedback and changes in the community. The class touring the OPL was enjoying economic development day and learning how the airport and advanced research like the OPL play a significant part in local and regional economic development. By the end of the program, CLP class members know more about the community than nearly anyone else.

Riverdale High FTC club visits OPL on Jan. 29

The Robotic Rams, from Riverdale High School in Port Byron, Illinois, witnessed rumbling aircrafts and advanced simulators displaying cutting-edge research, while passionate engineers and pilots ignited their imaginations with human-machine collaboration. The hangars at the University of Iowa Operator Performance Lab are filled with possibility! The laboratory left the Robotic Rams team buzzing with newfound knowledge and a hunger to push their own dreams further.

Logan Ogden

Robotic Rams

FTC Team #6596

Williamsburg schools talented and gifted program visits OPL

The Operator Performance Lab hosted approximately 20 seventh and eight grader students from the talented and gifted program at the Williamsburg Community School District. The visit was on Oct. 23, 2023.

OPL Visit

Collins leaders visit OPL as campus looks to expand opportunities for collaboration

OPL welcomed leaders from Collins Aerospace as part of a tour of several research areas at the University of Iowa on September 27, 2023. The goals was discussing opportunities for expanding collaborations between the two organizations. OPL already has a robust working relationship with Collins that dates multiple decades. 

OPL Visit

OPL a popular choice for Discover Your University

The Operator Performance Laboratory was one of the top choices for the University of Iowa's new Discover Your University series. The program allows faculty and staff from across campus to learn about the unique and remarkable programs at Iowa. OPL proudly volunteered to be an option for the September 21, 2023, Discover Your University Day, and presented its research and equipment for nearly 20 colleagues.

IISE tours OPL

The Iowa chapter of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE) toured University of Iowa's Operator Performance Lab (OPL) on Sept. 7, 2023. OPL Director Thomas "Mach" Schnell described how the lab's research spans the development of cutting-edge flight technologies, including Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS) and Head-Up Displays (HUDs).

"Our members were captivated by the practical applications of these technologies, particularly in high-performance jet training aircraft. It's inspiring to see the advancements being made here at Iowa, especially with the collaborations with various companies and government entities. One of the highlights of our visit was the firsthand experience with an advanced F-35 helmet and gaining insight into the meticulous human factors considerations involved in HUD design.

Above all, what struck us most was OPL's commitment to enhancing operator performance by seamlessly integrating human factors with cutting-edge technology. We left with a deep appreciation for OPL's contributions to this field and the role ISEs can play in it. "

Alexander (Olek) Gralczyk
President, Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers



Optimist Club fly-in pancake breakfast

OPL displayed several of its aircraft, including its L-29 Delfin jet; L-39 Albatros jet, and MI-2 Hoplite helicopter as part of the 44thannual Optimist Club fly-in pancake breakfast held at the Iowa City Municipal Airport on August 27, 2023. Approximately 1,500 people attended. Visitors also got views of the University of Iowa Air Care Helicopter, the Iowa State Highway Patrol Aircraft , and the Cessna 210, which just completed a trip around the world to fight polio. Visitors enjoyed an auto show consisting of antique Porche and British cars, ladder trucks from Iowa City and surrounding community fire departments and activities provided by the Iowa City Library Bookmobile and Iowa Children's Museum.  Proceeds from the breakfast help further the commitment of the Optimists to support local youth programs and charities.

OPL Visit
OPL Visit


EAA Chapter 33

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Chapter 33 visited OPL on Saturday Aug. 26, 2023. Over the years, through their work at Collins Aerospace, a number of EAA Chapter 33 members have worked with OPL. OPL Director and Chief Test Pilot Tom “Mach” Schnell welcomed the group and provided an overview of the research lab. 

OPL Visit
OPL Visit


Tippie College of Business Graduate Admissions Team

OPL hosted the Tippie team on Aug. 9, 2023. 

Collins Aerospace interns, new hires, and co-ops

OPL Visit

Edge of Space

Students from the University of Iowa Edge of Space program toured OPL on July 14, 2023. Edge of Space is a paid summer research experience centered around space-based instrumentation for observing Earth and space. The two-week program draws students from around the country. Learn more.

Faith Academy

Fourth graders from the Faith Academy in Iowa City visited OPL on April 26, 2023, as part of an effort to raise awareness about STEM fields.