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First AE/STEM Leadership Symposium hosted in Oakland

November 10, 2019

On November 9 and 10, our members were asked to challenge their assumptions about the Aerospace Education (AE) Mission in Civil Air Patrol during the first ever AE/STEM Leadership Symposium held in Oakland at the new Squadron 188 building. This event was open to all senior members and Aerospace Education Members. However, it was designed for Aerospace Education Officers (AEOs), command staff, and cadet programs officers. The goal was to inform our members about the administration of the AE program and to provide inspiring activities that could be brought back to participants’ squadrons, schools and communities.

“My primary goal for the event was to get our members to think about delivering our Aerospace Education mission in new ways. In our squadrons, so many of us concentrate on internal Aerospace Education,” said Captain Joe Spears, one of the event organizers, “but internal Aerospace Education is like internal Emergency Services... if one of our planes went missing, of course we would look for it, but that’s not why we do ES. Aerospace Education is the same thing.”

Thirty-eight members from squadrons throughout California attended the event, including two AE members. Our attendees included a broad range of squadron staff officers, reflecting our members’ dedication to Civil Air Patrol’s AE mission. Attendance at the full event also counted as having attended a Wing AE conference for completing level 3 of the senior member professional development program.

The first day of training consisted of the Pacific Region AEO School. This course, designed by the Region Director of AE, covers the administration and management of the AE program. By attending the AEO School, AEOs can demonstrate all the knowledge requirements needed to earn the technician rating in the Aerospace Specialty Track. This program also covers aerospace awards, grants, and various AE products that assist all our members in conducting external aerospace education.

The second day of training consisted of a series of hands-on AE workshops organized into multiple tracks. The sessions were intended for participants to experience lessons and subjects that participants could bring home to teach in their own squadrons, classrooms and communities.

“When we do an ES mission, we don’t rely only on officers in the ES track to do the jobs. Everyone pitches in for those missions,” said Spears. “Aerospace Education works the same way. Everyone in CAP can do outreach and should have the tools they need to bring AE to their community.”

One of the most popular morning sessions during the AE workshop was on “Design, Build, Fly.” These sessions led the participants through activities that took common, everyday materials to build multiple types of flying, model aircraft. The course concepts during this session could be used for a wide variety of students from elementary school through senior members.

At the same time, students were treated to a full computer lab with Real Flight remote control (RC) aircraft simulators. Participants learned how to pilot RC aircraft, and they learned how to use this tool in classrooms to teach everything from hand-eye coordination to forces of flight. Students also learned about various tutorials that are part of the software that can be used to assist them in lesson plans.

Some members participated in outdoor activities featuring a homemade hovercraft using a leaf-blower engine that our adult attendees got to ride on and a simple design for launching water rockets.

Afternoon sessions included airplane flight simulators as well as small, unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). One of the most popular afternoon sessions included a block of instruction that demonstrated two sizes of quad-copters. In Squadron 188’s “drone room”, AEO candidates were able to challenge themselves by flying their quad-copters through an obstacle course.

One of the most unique sessions for this event was offered during the afternoon and covered topics in aeronautical engineering. SM Sherrie Fenton described the Bernoulli Principle and taught students how to build models of a camshaft from a reciprocating engine using simple household materials.

Multiple other workshop sessions were available to students, including virtual reality astronomy and flight simulators. Each session covered a dose of theory, a reminder of how to be safe and legal (especially in activities with “moving parts”), and a large dose of hands-on fun.

Each AEO candidate experienced firsthand how to use all the equipment and material available and how to apply it in an AE setting. Two of the key takeaways for the weekend were that education is collaborative and that STEM is fun!

A special thanks goes to the ten instructors who delivered the amazing weekend of training.

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