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Aviation advocates work to inspire teachers, students

Organizations offer educators hands-on experience

The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) will host a Classroom to the Sky program for K through 12 educators interested in igniting a passion for aviation in their students.

Photo by David Tulis.

The program—to be held October 8 in Lakeland, Florida, at the ACE facility—aims to be part of the solution to the high global demand for aviation professionals. When Boeing Co. released the Pilot and Technician Outlook 2022–2041, the report forecast a need for 602,000 new pilots and 610,000 new maintenance technicians over the next two decades.

One way ACE aims to do its part to reduce those numbers is by inspiring the next generation of aerospace professionals through classroom outreach.

Educators in English, math, social studies, and science are invited to attend the ACE half-day Classroom to the Sky program, immersing themselves in networking opportunities; educational sessions on topics like starting an aviation program, incorporating drones in schools, and flight sims in the classrooms; and an opportunity for a flight in a general aviation aircraft.

The keynote speaker for the event is Gregory Harbaugh, a former astronaut who acquired 818 spaceflight hours during his time at NASA as a mission specialist. After his time at NASA, Harbaugh worked for the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo and the Sigma Chi Foundation, and today serves as the chair and CEO of InnerSpace Consultants.

Registration for the event is $80. Any questions about the event can be emailed to event organizers.

The high demand for future industry professionals requires ongoing collaboration if there is hope to effect lasting change, and multiple organizations are stepping up. The ACE program works well in collaboration with the AOPA Foundation You Can Fly High School STEM Curriculum, which is free to use and similarly designed to inspire and engage students in a STEM education program through the lens of aviation.

“Any program that increases educators’ and the public’s interest in and knowledge of aviation creates opportunities to recruit high schools to build aviation programs and adopt the You Can Fly Curriculum,” Glenn Ponas, director of high school outreach for the AOPA Foundation, said of the Classroom to the Sky program. “ACE and the AOPA Foundation YCF team collaborate extensively.”

Part of this collaboration includes the use of the AOPA Foundation curriculum in ACE's on-airport high school—the grade nine course is required for all incoming freshmen—and the cooperative relationship between AOPA and Eric Crump, the new executive director of ACE. Crump is set to serve as a breakout panelist at the 2022 FedEx AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Symposium Presented by Boeing in November, a two-day event designed for “sharing insights, ideas, and best practices for starting and building aviation STEM programs.”

While it’s easy to be daunted by statistics about the future of the aviation sector, industry leaders remain dedicated to collaborative outreach targeting our most powerful tool: the next generation.

Lillian Geil

Digital Media Assistant Editor
Digital Media Assistant Editor Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: AOPA Foundation, Aviation Education Programs

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