The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) hosted its second annual High School Aviation STEM Symposium at Seattle’s Museum of Flight Nov. 6 and 7.
The event was attended by almost 200 education and aviation industry representatives from 33 states and Canada. Last year’s symposium, the first of its kind, was held at the Aerospace Center for Excellence in Lakeland, Florida, and covered by U.S. News & World Report.
AOPA officials say they have identified a gap in aviation youth education that no other organization is filling. By working with schools directly, AOPA is helping to expose a diverse group of students to aviation that might otherwise never realize that a career as a pilot, aerospace engineer, or aircraft mechanic is within reach.
AOPA President Mark Baker said the future looked bright for students now in high school.
“There are real careers and real opportunities for students,” Baker told the group, noting an expected shortage for pilots and mechanics worldwide expected to climb past 600,000 full-time positions in the next 20 years, according to a Boeing study.
The symposium had nine breakout sessions, as well as a tour of the nearby Raisbeck Aviation High School.
The sessions included discussions on private philanthropy in support of aviation education, integrating aviation content in core curricula, the path to a private pilot certificate, and Bill Ayers talked about the leadership lessons he learned during his time as Chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group.
The event ended with a presentation by Purdue University, which has partnered with AOPA to develop pathways of curricula for high school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) aviation programs.
Retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott spoke at the opening and reminded teachers that their passion could be contagious because, “in school, even if you are just one teacher in aviation or aeronautics, it can make a huge difference to some students.”
“By connecting STEM learning to aviation pathways that are fun, engaging, and offer career potential, these curricula will help students get the most from their studies,” explained Cindy Hasselbring, senior director for AOPA’s High School Initiative. “The symposium was a great opportunity for educators to share ideas and everyone left excited and empowered no matter if they are just starting and aviation STEM program or improving an existing one. AOPA will continue to work with schools, teachers and industry leaders to give students more opportunities to learn about aviation in the classroom.”
The High School Initiative is part of AOPA’s You Can Fly program. AOPA launched You Can Fly in January 2015 to build a vibrant, growing, and self-sustaining community of active pilots. You Can Fly is moving the needle when it comes to building and supporting the pilot population with programs to improve student completion rates, bring lapsed pilots back to the cockpit, introduce young people to aviation careers, and provide a cost effective way to fly and share that experience with a community of fellow pilots.