Reaching for the sky

Virtual AOPA STEM symposium energizes hundreds of educators

More than 800 educators participated in a live, virtual AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium co-hosted by social media influencer, CFI, and Beechcraft V-tail Bonanza owner Stevie Triesenberg, with AOPA Senior Vice President of the AOPA Foundation and You Can Fly program Elizabeth Tennyson.

Tennyson welcomed the virtual attendees from a hangar at Arkansas’ Bentonville Municipal Airport and encouraged them to participate in any of 10 on-demand breakout sessions that were designed to help them “reach for the sky.”

The groundbreaking four-year aviation science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum for ninth to twelfth graders began during the 2017 to 2018 school year with 29 schools in 17 states. It has since expanded to include hundreds of instructors and about 20,000 students.

Triesenberg, known on TikTok as @PlaneGirl, said she was “thrilled” to help host the live program. The energetic software engineer “fell in love” with aviation after spotting an airplane photo on an Instagram post and she began taking flight lessons soon after. Triesenberg has since added ratings and certificates in rapid succession and built a substantial following while encouraging others to pursue their aviation goals. She said she wanted to “add my thanks to the teachers that dare to dream and make it happen every day for students, especially in aviation.”

Grammy-winning country music performer, pilot, and You Can Fly Champion Dierks Bentley closed out the welcoming comments, telling educators that he “wouldn’t be where I am today without great teachers like you.” He celebrated the symposium that began in 2015 with 150 educators as the “only event of its kind to focus on high school aviation STEM education.” Bentley, who earned his pilot certificate when he was in his 20s and often flies himself to and from concert performances, invited attendees to Memphis, Tennessee, November 13 to 15, 2022, for the in-person FedEx AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Symposium presented by Boeing.

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David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer 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.

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