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AOPA immerses educators in aviation

Teachers to tour UPS, compare notes

High school educators from around the country will be immersed in aviation Nov. 5 and 6 when shipping titan UPS hosts and sponsors the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium, packed with high-energy learning and networking opportunities.

Houston Mills, a UPS captain and director of global aviation and public policy, participates in a hiring panel session during the 2017 AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium. Mills will deliver a keynote during the 2018 event in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by David Tulis.

The AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium program was crafted to inspire those who will in turn inspire students to love learning science, technology, engineering, and math through aviation. The event will mark its fourth year in Louisville, Kentucky, and build on the success of the 2017 edition, which drew more than 250 high school teachers and administrators. The program is part of AOPA’s You Can Fly program to grow the pilot community, and it dovetails with the rollout of the association’s high school curriculum.

Cindy Hasselbring, the senior director of AOPA’s high school initiative, said attendees will hear from fellow educators, private and commercial aviation representatives, and other leaders who are focused on meeting the increased demand for air transportation. She added that 80 schools are already using the ninth-grade curriculum and 25 more are field-testing the tenth-grade curriculum introduced for the 2018-2019 school year.

The initiative has been met with enthusiasm from educators who helped test and refine some of the in-class lessons and activities. Many of the same teachers attended hands-on training at AOPA headquarters during the summer when they learned, up close, about helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Some even tried their hands at landing a Redbird FMX full-motion flight simulator. A precision drone-landing contest was also a big hit.

The scholastic program is aligned with rigorous math and science educational standards already in use and was created in partnership with curriculum developers and aviation experts to offer four-year study options in two aviation career pathways: pilot and unmanned aircraft systems (drones).

“Every year we build curriculum, we field test, then we roll it out,” Hasselbring continued, “and we’ll be updating it forever.” She said schools can apply to use the free curriculum “starting in November.”

Educators will participate in two panels: an aviation career discussion moderated by FAA educational expert Jim Brough, and a high school panel moderated by TOPGUN graduate and West Michigan Aviation Academy educator George Pavey. Additionally, 15 breakout sessions will allow educators to tailor their experience to their individual needs.

The symposium will feature an opening keynote from Houston Mills, a UPS captain and the delivery company’s global public policy director. Mills energized forward-looking teachers, principals, and school superintendents during a panel discussion at the 2017 AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium at the Dallas/Fort Worth home of American Airlines. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and COO, will deliver the second day’s keynote at this year’s event.

Educators will have a unique opportunity to get behind the scenes during optional tours of the UPS pilot training facilities, the 24-hour maintenance facilities, and UPS Worldport Hub. “None of these tours are open to the public so it’s pretty special for these educators,” said Hasselbring. “The UPS pilots participating in the tours are AOPA members and they are so excited for us to be there. Teachers are going to fly in the package giant’s sims so this will be a lifetime opportunity,” she added.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are entirely funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit

David Tulis

David Tulis

Content Producer
AOPA Media Content Producer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: AOPA Events, Aviation Education Programs, Training and Safety

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