HAYDEN — Teens from across North Idaho took off Wednesday into a future that could include aerospace careers.
They all took part in the 2018 Aerospace Career Exploration Academy. The program, which continues today, exposes youngsters to possible careers in aviation with lessons in science, technology, engineering and math.
“The growth of this industry around the state, especially in northern Idaho, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers who run the program” led the Idaho Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics to expand the program for the first time to North Idaho, said North Idaho College Aerospace Director Patrick O’Halloran.
The two-day academy gave middle school and high school students the chance to learn how to rivet, build and test model planes, and stress-test materials used for aircraft. In addition, students got a chance to meet pilots and mechanics from local companies and government agencies, plus visit air traffic controllers at Spokane International Airport’s tower, he said.
Lakes Magnet Middle School seventh graders Wyatt Matthews and Elijah Lessard worked with volunteer Darcy McInturff to design and test different wing designs. The students and their peers tested their balsa wood planes for speed, distance, and total time in the air.
Lakeland High School sophomore Riley Siegford said he had never riveted before, but found the experience “pretty cool.” It was fun to dive into something new, he said.
It was also the first time Priest River Junior High School eighth grader Jace Yount had been exposed to careers in aviation, he said.
Members of the North Idaho High School Aerospace Program assisted interested students in the academy’s hands-on, small group setting. Sandpoint native Gavin Klein learned a lot through the program, and now works as an avionic technician for Empire Airlines at the Coeur d’Alene Airport, he said. His brother, Sandpoint High School sophomore Carter Klein, had gleaned a bit from his sibling’s involvement, but was glad to experience aviation work for himself.
“I like it a lot,” said the younger Klein.
Homeschooled 11th grader Daniel Spencer has been part of the NIHSAP for one and a half years and was glad to share lessons he’s learned. ACE Academy students picked it up quickly, he said. Lilly Falconer has been part of NIHSAP for 17 months. Pursuing a career in aviation “teaches you that you can accomplish meaningful things in your life,” she said.
O’Halloran agreed, saying, “Any of these are in-demand careers offering higher than average earnings; the earlier they discover a path that interests them, the earlier they can set and achieve their goals.”
O’Halloran explained that since there are many career pathways for students to travel, the academy gave them a taste of many.
“This event is all about exposing kids to the various options within the aerospace field, and showing them how to get started on a path that interests them. If they take to Wednesday’s meteorology lesson, or decide that engineering is their interest, we’ll guide them toward the education they’ll need. If the hands-on experiences with riveting or advanced composites piques their curiosity about becoming a mechanic, or learning how planes are manufactured, we can make other introductions.”
To learn more about ACE Academy, go to: aceacademy.aero.