FAA Awards Grants To Expand STEM Outreach


The FAA has awarded $231,000 in grants designed to facilitate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach. The grants will go to three universities—North Carolina State University, Kansas State University and Ohio’s Sinclair Community College—for programs aimed at students of elementary, middle, and high school age with a focus on “those who are under-represented in STEM and aviation fields.” Using the grant money, the universities will develop and run drone-centered immersion programs, summer camps and after-school programs for young people along with community outreach efforts.

“If kids can dream it, they can do it,” said FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims. “It’s up to us to light the path for them.”

The FAA stated that the STEM outreach grants build on its efforts to “inspire the next generation of aviators,” citing initiatives including the FAA Adopt-A-School Program, Airport Design Challenge, Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academies and Youth in Aviation Task Force. The agency further noted that it awarded $5 million in grants last January “to develop the next generation of pilots” by funding aviation classes at higher-education institutions, high schools, state and local governments and flight schools.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “The grants will go to three universities…for programs aimed at students of elementary, middle, and high school age.”

    How many elementary age people are in those universities?

      • Well, ity would only make sense if programs helped the smart kids go further in math and science. Think of after school math competitions as a start.

        “Outreach programs” using “drone-centered immersion programs” will not help little Jonny learn math or science any more than a go-cart centered program would.

          • We need to teach science, engineering and mathematics if we want children to learn science and engineering and mathematics. You don’t learn those disiplines from playing with toys; you learn those disciplines from learning those disiplines.

            A go-cart or a toy drone are fun, but it’s misguided to assume that you be come qualified to be a mechanical or an aerospace engineer by osmosis from those who did the real science to design them.

  2. As much as these sorts of things sound good, I have to wonder why there are all these overlapping responsibilities. If we deleted the DoE, this might make sense, but we aren’t, so isn’t this just complicating an already overly complex Federal system of money for education? The cost of this is much greater than the stated amount, and much of that cost is the time of people at the FAA who already have too many priorities.

  3. @ArthurJF: Outreach programs like this are not designed, nor do they claim, to make students “qualified”, in these educational disciplines, as you say. They are intended to get kids interested in these technology areas, and a drone would certainly do that. Money well spent in my opinion.

    • “They are intended to get kids interested in these technology areas”

      30 or 40 years ago, maybe, yea, sure, when all kids did not have good access to information.
      Today ALL kids Do have access 24/7 to flight sims and all the tech content they could ever want.
      These programs are out-of-date as far as any need for getting kids “aware” and woefully inadequate for the serious teaching of a STEM. This is make believe STEM, as they said, STEM for dreamers,

      More to the point, the drones are probably being designed and constructed and shipped by children in other countries so that our kids cam play with them and just “dream”. I am very sorry, but we must clearly see that this was never the point of STEM nor will it meet it’s needed goals.

      • I have been involved with EAA’s Young Eagles Programs for going on 18 years, and seeing a kid’s face light up with wonder and excitement when they walk up to a plane for their very first flight can not be matched by a computer flight sim or any other online sources. I imagine operating a drone for the first time would illicit similar results. The purpose of programs like this is not to just make kids “aware” of STEM. It’s to get kids interested in STEM and it does work and no, it is not outdated.

        • When you can buy a “drone” these days on Amazon for $25, it’s no longer something that kids are “unaware of”. The idea that kids have never heard about STEM and/or have never seen other kids playing with the inexpensive toys is not rational. If anything inner-city drone flying is becoming a problem!

          • Ah, there is is. I was really struggling to understand why anyone would so vehemently oppose a program like this. It’s not a lot of money and it’s designed to get kids interested in science, technology, and maybe aviation. You gave yourself away with your ridiculous comment that “inner-city drone flying is becoming a problem”. Really? Where? Or was that comment just your way of working in those buzz words “inner city”. But now I fully understand your position. The program is designed to attract “those who are under-represented in STEM and aviation fields.” That’s the phrase that you object to. You don’t want a half a penny of your tax dollars going a program that helps “those people”; and we both know what that means. When people show you who they are, believe them. I’m done with this thread. Good day, sir.

  4. “The program is designed to attract “those who are under-represented in STEM and aviation fields.” That’s the phrase that you object to.”

    High density areas have plenty of “drones” from police, fire, roofing salesmen, etc. Kids today have more visibility to and access to technology than EVER BEFORE in the history of the human race. I “object” with the notion that playing with toys is “STEM”. STEM is a discipline with hard work.

    Ask Kate O’Connor what the drop out rate is at ERUA for anyone who wants to get an aeronautical engineering degree. Dreaming is fine but HARD WORK is the path to success in the STEM fields.

  5. I know we will never change your mind or convince you otherwise, AJ., but there is a huge population of low income families in this country that can’t afford drones or sims or other “toys” as you call them. Yes, becoming an engineer or other STEM occupation is hard work, but first you have to see the application and potential for working to that end. A drone may not teach you math or science, but it shows you an application for those disciplines and why you might want to chose them as a vocation. I can’t tell you how many kids I have seen that hate math or science because they don’t see any reason why they should care about learning them. Unfortunately our schools systems too often teach dry subjects without demonstrating how they can actually be used in life. When you show them real-world applications, their eyes light up and their attitude changes. I also know of several young people from various minorities who are bright, capable STEM-based employees who became interested though programs similar to this that showed them a career path they would not have otherwise chosen.