Aviation Academy Director Details Programs

Oct. 20, 2022

Oct. 19—The director of the Oklahoma Aviation Academy in Norman anticipates the STEM-focused school will continue to ensure the state is positioned as a national leader in the aviation industry.

The Oklahoma Aviation Academy at Norman Public Schools gives high schoolers credit that goes toward an aviation degree as well as drone certifications. Students can complete multiple semesters worth of college coursework in a variety of fields.

It was the vision of Rick Nagel, member of the University of Oklahoma's Board of Regents, who agreed with NPS Superintendent Nick Migliorino that Norman's ecosystem needed it.

In August, the inaugural freshman class of 78 students started at Max Westheimer Airport. They were selected from a pool of 160 applicants — more than five times the expected amount, said program director Terry Adams.

Oklahoma ranks 50th in STEM education, the Journal Record reported earlier this month. Adams said through providing industry connected education and providing immersive experiences and exposure, the academy can improve that ranking.

"The CEO of Boeing said there is a desperate need for engineers," Adams said at a presentation Tuesday at a Norman Chamber of Commerce luncheon. "They're hiring 50 people a month at the Boeing plant here in Oklahoma City, trying to keep up with the work that they have and move forward."

Students can graduate with a private pilot license and two years of complete coursework toward their bachelor's degree in aviation. In a collaborative effort with Moore Norman Technology Center, students can work toward an industry certification as an aviation maintenance technician while in high school.

In the next two years, Adams said he intends to reach out to communities that don't have an aviation program in their district to determine how to serve them, whether that's through a transfer or remote learning.

Adams' presentation asserted the center's programming blends science, technology, education and math with a "backdrop of aviation and aerospace."

Career pathways include flight, air traffic control, engineering, computer science, meteorology and mathematics.

Enrolled students are allowed to participate in extracurricular activities under NPS.

Ultimately, Adams envisions a stand-alone facility at Max Westheimer Airport, as part of a collaborative effort that houses up to 700 students.

Adams said the state's aerospace and defense cluster is the second largest and fastest growing sector in the state, with a $44 billion economic impact, more than 120,000 employees and accounts for 15% of jobs in the state.

"There's hundreds of different jobs within the aviation and aerospace industry that they can be a part of," Adams said. "That's what we want to do for these kids. If they don't know exactly what they want to do, we're going to create pathways that hit on traditional engineering, computer science STEM courses, and even explore cybersecurity, which is a growing field."

Currently, there are 106 kids in the aviation course, and 78 in the academy.

He said 95 of the 106 enrollees are currently freshmen, and 27 of those are female.

Academy students have a daily aviation course in addition to math and english, which allows the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's STEM-specific curriculum. Adams said aviation and aerospace is worked into the curriculum to a significant degree.

"That's part of what drives the interest of our students," Adams said.

Students spent Tuesday morning building wind tunnels out of cardboard, straws and plexiglass.

A second lesson followed on creating lift with airfoil.

Hands-on and immersive experiences set the academy apart from the other 57 high school STEM curriculums in Oklahoma, Adams said.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at [email protected] or @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.


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