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Accreditation for AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM Program: the Next Generation of Drone Pilots

Photo by Chris Rose high school aviation STEM education

Photo by Chris Rose

The drone industry could face a massive shortage of qualified pilots, as flight beyond visual line of sight, drone delivery, cargo drones, and passenger aircraft become a reality.   The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Foundation’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum is working to meet those needs by introducing aviation carreers – both manned and unmanned – to a new generation of pilots.  Now, AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum has received two accreditation honors from the independent credentialing and education research organization STEM.org.

AOPA has taken a leading role in educating pilots and supporting the inclusion of drone pilots into the NAS.  The AOPA foundation is in a unique position to offer high school aviation education: this new accreditation may make it easier for schools to adopt their curriculum and help high school students connect with aviation careers.

The high school curriculum and corresponding materials were vetted during a rigorous and thorough process, earning two Trustmarks that are indicative of meeting a range of standards set by STEM.org experts which include:

  • Develop critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.

  • Promote science, technology, engineering, and math skills that prepare students for the future of aviation and aerospace.

  • Strengthen the STEM skills students need for twenty-first-century careers.

  • Support the development of STEM skills future-focused employers desire.

“The AOPA’s You Can Fly program exhibits true excellence and is leading the way in STEM education,” said Founder and Executive Director of STEM.org, Andrew B. Raupp. “In thoroughly assessing the program and corresponding curriculum during the multiphase assessment process, our team was impressed with AOPA’s STEM academic rigor combined with a devotion to supporting future pilots at every stage of their aviation journey. They provide students the resources to nurture the skills they need to think critically and succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

AOPA’s High School Aviation Curriculum

“The opportunity to become accredited through STEM.org is something that will elevate the AOPA Foundation’s curriculum to new heights,” said AOPA You Can Fly Program Executive Director Elizabeth Tennyson. “Many students don’t realize that being a pilot is an option for them and it really is very accessible. AOPA works hard to make it even more accessible and gives students the exposure and tools they need to pursue a career in aviation.”

As AOPA previously reported, “the science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum features six courses in two pathways—pilot and drones—for students in grades nine through 12 and can be used in public, private, charter, or parochial high schools. It is also available for home-school co-op programs at the high school level. Schools may choose to use a single course or a four-year career and technical education program.”

More than 8,000 students participated in the AOPA Foundation’s STEM curriculum for the 2020-2021 school year. By the end of the two pathways, students have learned the material needed to pass the FAA private pilot or remote pilot knowledge tests.

The AOPA Foundation’s high school aviation curriculum was used in more than 200 schools across 38 states in the 2020-2021 school year and AOPA hopes that the program will continue to expand. In addition to encouraging the next generation of drone pilots, the AOPA program is encouraging diversity in the aviation industry: “The curriculum is also attracting more students from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented throughout the aviation field, with 20 percent of the students in the curriculum being female, and 45 percent people of color,” says AOPA.

Schools can access the  AOPA Foundation’s curriculum through an application process.  Schools interested in applying for the 2022-2023 school year should contact AOPA’s high school curriculum specialists.  The curriculum is provided to schools free of cost: it is supported through donations to the AOPA Foundation.

The You Can Fly program, which produces the curriculum and numerous other initiatives designed to make flying more accessible and affordable, is funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate

accreditation for aopas high school aviation stem program the next generation of drone pilots 1 Airplane GEEK Accreditation for AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM Program: the Next Generation of Drone Pilots

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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