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AOPA high school aviation program expandsAOPA high school aviation program expands

Educators to share best practices for aviation STEM programs Nov. 6 and 7Educators to share best practices for aviation STEM programs Nov. 6 and 7

Educators will have twice as much time to share strategies that inspire students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts when the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium, presented by American Airlines, convenes Nov. 6 and 7 in Fort Worth, Texas.

An Avid Flyer provides the background as Raisbeck Aviation High School student Nicole Diaz leads 2016 AOPA High School Symposium attendees on a tour. Photo by David Tulis.

The learning and networking event is now in its third year, with previous one-day stops in the aviation-rich environments of Lakeland, Florida, and Seattle. More than 160 attended the inaugural 2015 session to learn from fellow educators, aviation pioneers, and business leaders; and nearly 200 attended the 2016 symposium.

Aviation industry jobs are in high demand, and Boeing recently predicted the appetite would continue for at least the next 20 years. Carl Davis, Boeing Global Services’ director of air crew operations and a symposium panelist, suggested a foundation in STEM courses would help prepare young people for future opportunities. The aircraft manufacturer and aerospace giant’s July global jobs outlook showed a need for 637,000 commercial pilots, 648,000 technicians, and a whopping 839,000 cabin crew members within that time span.

AOPA recognizes the importance of growing the pilot population and has put several programs in place to ensure a robust future for aviators. The goal of AOPA’s You Can Fly High School Initiative is to help build and sustain STEM programs and to provide a quality workforce to the aviation industry.

Educators Mari Peterson and Derek Smith participate in a breakout session during the 2016 AOPA High School Symposium in Seattle. Photo by David Tulis.

The Texas symposium will feature learning and breakout sessions that focus on interactive concepts to engage and inspire young people. Participants will hear from fellow educators, private and commercial aviation representatives, an astronaut, and other leaders who are focused on the increased demand for air travel—on Earth and beyond.

Sessions will take place in a hangar partially occupied by a gleaming silver, propeller-driven Douglas DC-3 air transport aircraft, so attendees will be literally surrounded by aviation. Optional tours of the American Airlines headquarters and the Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center will augment the learning sessions, networking opportunities, and an exhibit area.

AOPA spent several months working with aviation and education experts to develop a variety of engaging aviation-based experiments and curricula designed to inspire ninth-graders and help them think outside the box. Symposium participants will learn about the courses, resources, timelines, and ways to jump start aviation programs.

A Boeing 747 frames students studying aviation concepts at Raisbeck Aviation High School, near the site of the 2016 AOPA High School Symposium in Seattle. Photo by David Tulis.

Teachers at 29 high schools are already field-testing the courses that include opportunities for students to build a wind tunnel and test airfoils; build and fly hot air balloons constructed from tissue paper; and create a habitat that will keep an astronaut out of danger from the harsh Martian environment. The courses will be available to high schools at no charge beginning in the fall of 2018, noted Cindy Hasselbring, senior director of AOPA’s high school aviation initiative.

“Last year’s AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium built a lot of energy around high school aviation,” Hasselbring said. “This year we hope to harness that energy to enhance existing aviation programs and to assist other schools seeking to establish their own aviation-based STEM programs.”

Educators interested in attending should register online.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: You Can Fly, Aviation Education Programs

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