Students fly high in Malheur STEM aviation program

students with plane

In rural communities it’s especially difficult to connect underserved youth to a career pathway in STEM fields. At the same time, there is a deficit of workers in those occupations. Connecting the two can prove problematic.

In response, Barbara Brody, associate professor of practice and Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H educator in Malheur County, worked with educational and industry partners to launch the Aerospace Career Exploration (ACE) Academy. The academy is a three day, intensive learning experience delivered to underserved teenagers from rural areas of Malheur County. The overall objective is to provide a unique summer aviation education program for high school students who are interested in aviation and aerospace. The program provides students with a wide range of aviation career exploration experiences and also focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

ACE Academy exposes youths to the following activities:

  • Lessons in flight planning, aviation history and the physics of flight.
  • Field trips to aviation-related industry sites,
  • Instruction on aircraft design and maintenance.
  • Airport management.
  • Basic drone instruction.
  • Flight simulation.

As a result of their participation in ACE Academy, students reported in their evaluations a significant increase in interest and aspirations related aviation/STEM careers. All of the participants agreed that they experienced a significant increase in interest and aspirations related to STEM careers. Eighty-percent of the participants reported that ACE Academy had a great influence on their decisions regarding pursuing a career in an aviation related field.

One participant said, "I came to this ACE Academy in a neutral position. I wasn't very excited to be there, but I wasn't mad that I was there. Once we got started, the pace quickly picked up. I began to feel excited to be there. Everything we did was very interesting. As the camp went along it kept getting better and better."

Collaborators on the project include the Frontier STEM Hub, Frazier Aviation, Ontario Municipal Airport, Silverhawk Aviation Academy, Treasure Valley Community College Aviation Program and Stowell Aviation.