Sooner Flight Academy Converts to Virtual Experience
Vol.6 Issue 6
University of Oklahoma Sooner Flight Academy.

The summer of 2020 may long be remembered as a time when tours, ACE Academies and workshops were all converted to virtual experiences. Each year, the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) hosts community organizations and other aviation-based camps with tours of the Center, where Oklahoma’s young people get a chance to talk to industry professionals and observe Oklahoma’s expertise in aviation.

This year, Dawn Machalinksi, Program Director for the Sooner Flight Academy at the University of Oklahoma reached out to members of the Center to see if we could offer a one-hour session to students during their camp. Soon, all efforts were in motion to provide forty teenagers (ages 14 to 18) with a virtual training experience.

Special thanks to Dr. Melchor Antuñano, Director of the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute; Christine Huckleberry, Hardware Engineering Manager, NAS Engineering Group; Roosevelt McLemore, Manager, FAA Academy, Training Services Support Division; Alex Chadwick, Program Manager, Enterprise Services Center Business Relationship and Project Management Office and Kim Sheppard, Chief of Staff, MMAC, for collaborating and putting together an engaging, informative presentation to educate the students about careers in aviation. They gained some insight to what actually goes on beyond the gates of the Aeronautical Center.

The Sooner Flight Academy students learned about the complexity of our National Airspace System, and why the Center was established 74 years ago. They also learned of the major needs that the Center fulfills in the aviation industry, technologies of the future, and some key events that helped shaped the history of aviation. Roosevelt McLemore expressed, "The time was well spent with the students laughing, having fun and being involved with their projects." During a question and answer session, the students tapped into the minds of the experts to see if they could gain a competitive advantage in constructing their balloon projects, or to gain insight to creating a better MineCraft Server.

After the virtual session, Dawn expressed her gratitude to the MMAC team for hosting this virtual experience. "The FAA MMAC team introduced our youth to careers in management, air traffic control, technical operations, safety inspection, medical and human factors research, engineering, and IT. They also provided coaching tips for our youth in recommending academic tracks and college selection for those interested in an aviation-related career. Our panel session ended with advice from the FAA team for our campers on how to best design a hot air balloon for our competition."

Michelle Coppedge, Director of the Aeronautical Center emphasized, "STEM outreach is a big priority for the FAA. Each of us have an opportunity to inspire the next generation of aviation professionals. Whatever we can do to make a difference in a young person’s life, that’s what we should be doing." The virtual event turned out to be interesting and appealing to these middle and high school students. Kim Sheppard comments, "As I watched some of the student’s reactions throughout the presentation, I felt like the seed was planted for some of them to explore the many possibilities in aerospace and even a career at the Aeronautical Center. It would be awesome to see one or more of the students walking on the campus in the future as an employee, and to know that this summer camp sparked the interest which led them to the Center."

Students from the Sooner Flight Academy converse with members of leadership from the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
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