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Inspiration in Orlando

You Can Fly symposium draws teachers preparing future pilots

Astronauts, fighter pilots, and aerospace executives primed about 500 teachers to continue growing the AOPA You Can Fly High School STEM Curriculum that has helped more than 72,000 students get a leg up on aerospace careers.

Thomas Ellis from Palm Beach Day Academy in Palm Beach, Florida, snaps a photo of a wind tunnel display during a hands-on workshop. Photo by Rebecca Boone.

This year’s AOPA Foundation High School STEM Aviation Symposium was held in Orlando, Florida, November 12 through 14.

Click images to view captions.

McCall Harriman from the Arkansas Division of Aeronautics shares a laugh with Michelle Bouziden from the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics at the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Symposium in Orlando, Florida, on November 12. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Attendees experience firsthand an airplane emergency evacuation slide during a tour of the JetBlue University training center. Photo by Rebecca Boone. The selfie booth, sponsored by Embraer, was a hit among attendees between sessions. Photo by Rebecca Boone. AOPA Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Tennyson speaks during the afternoon general session on November 13. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Chantry Holdman with Rocket Drones demonstrates flying a drone in the exhibit hall. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Alexis Rindfleisch from Joseph Charter School in Joseph, Oregon, chats with George Anderson from Sebastian River High School in Sebastian, Florida, during a networking hour. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Joey Colleran of Boeing Global Services greets symposium attendees during the opening general session on November 13. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Hannah Young from Wyandotte High School in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, takes a selfie with her new friend from the exhibit hall. Photo by Rebecca Boone.

The event was created to provide classroom teachers and school administrators with an opportunity to share best practices, insights, and ideas for launching or building a STEM program based on the free curriculum that the You Can Fly program offers to participating schools.

AOPA Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Tennyson welcomed the educators to the three-day event that began with a November 12 keynote expressing gratitude for the role they play in the program’s success.

“You are part of a nationwide movement to provide kids with opportunities they never dreamed of—and some 72,000 students all across the country have already benefited from your efforts,” Tennyson said.

Jeff Fuqua, past chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, speaks with AOPA Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Tennyson during the symposium opening general session. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Barrington Irving, author, pilot, entrepreneur, and founder of Flying Classroom, delivers the first keynote presentation of the event on November 13. Photo by Rebecca Boone Barrington Irving chats with Ruopeng Wu (left), Ruokun Wu (middle), and Aykhan Bayramov (right) from Richard Bland College in South Prince George, Virginia. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Jenny "Juno" Moore, a Lockheed Martin F-35 training and operations manager, lead flight instructor, and an experienced fighter pilot, was the final keynote speaker of the event. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Keynote speaker Christopher "Chuie" Huie, senior manager of business insights for Virgin Galactic and co-founder of Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training, speaks with Shauntel Clarke from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University after his speech. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Jonas De Leon from Gregorio Luperon High School in New York City and Mary Tyree from Alva High School in Alva, Oklahoma, review a chart during a hands-on workshop. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Jenny "Juno" Moore speaks with Corrynn Breidinger of Paoli High School in Paoli, Oklahoma, after her speech. Photo by Rebecca Boone. Syd Blue from Big Bear High School in Big Bear City, California, tests a simulator in the True Course Simulations booth in the exhibit hall. Photo by Rebecca Boone.

"The curriculum is serving students in rural, suburban, and urban areas; in every type of school and even home school co-ops," Tennyson said. "And you are impacting students from every kind of ethnic, racial, and economic background. In fact, almost half the schools in this program are Title 1 eligible. And the students using the program are diverse—42 percent are students of color, numbers that look like the country as a whole."

The closing keynote speaker, Jenny “Juno” Moore, is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot with combat experience and hundreds of carrier landings under her belt, flying Boeing F/A–18 Super Hornets. Currently Lockheed Martin’s training operations manager and lead F–35 instructor, Moore exemplified the career path now available to a growing number of students.

“You might be surprised to learn that women make up only about 7 percent of the licensed pilots in this country. But you can expect that to change, because 23 percent of our students are young women,” Tennyson said.

Teachers participated in breakout sessions, tried out hands-on classroom exercises, and had a little fun flying small drones indoors. Many of those who participated will likely return when the next High School Aviation STEM Symposium is held in Atlanta, another aerospace hotbed, in November 2024.

To learn more about the free AOPA Foundation curriculum and how you can champion aviation education in your community, contact the High School Initiative team via email or visit the website.

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

AOPA ePublishing staff

AOPA ePublishing Staff editors are experienced pilots, flight instructors, and aircraft owners who have a passion for bringing you the latest news and AOPA announcements.
Topics: You Can Fly, Aviation Education Programs

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