OKLAHOMA CITY – This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Teachers from the across the state no doubt brought the excitement of this anniversary into their classrooms to motivate young minds to broaden their skills base in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With that in mind, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission believes this is the perfect time to inspire youth to become pilots, engineers, aviation mechanics, scientists, and astronauts. The Commission is determined to focus on vectoring young minds toward the exploration of aerospace and aviation, and they are doing so through their nationally recognized and award winning education grant program.
“Fifty years ago, children were watching in their living rooms with their parents as Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon. The Space Race and President Kenney’s challenge to win it by landing a man on the moon and returning home safely to the Earth within a decade of the 1960’s, inspired generations of youth to become engineers, pilots, and yes, even astronauts. That workforce is retiring and we have a critical workforce shortage across Oklahoma and the nation in aviation and aerospace,” said Victor Bird, Director for the Commission. “The purpose of our aerospace and aviation education program is to make young Oklahomans aware of the opportunities in aerospace and encourage them to pursue those opportunities.”
Thirty-nine different entities were awarded Aerospace and Aviation Education Program grants totaling over $299,235 from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC). The record amount of funds will be used to bring more school-aged children in Oklahoma to STEM careers, particularly those in aerospace and aviation. The funding was approved by the Commission at their most recent meeting.
Grants are for targeted learning programs that have a direct application to aerospace and aviation for primary through post-secondary education. The grant funds are part of the agency’s initiative to give more Oklahoma young people access to STEM careers in the aerospace and aviation industry.
“This year’s program received 46 applications by the May 31 deadline. That is a 30% increase over last year. Of those, 39 were recommended to the Commission for approval,” said Adam Fox, Aviation Program Manager and Aviation Education Coordinator for the Commission. The total cost of all submitted programs combined was $3.4M. “Much like last year, the sum for funding requests was substantial, totaling $602,971. Eighteen applicants were new to the program including the Boy Scouts of America Arbuckle Area Council, Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, Oklahoma WONDERtorium, Putnam City High School AFJROTC, and Cache and Sand Springs Public Schools,” Fox said.
Charged with the mission by state statute, the Commission encourages students to consider aerospace or aviation as a career. The Commission’s education grant program has over 30 years of positive results. The initiative supports the Oklahoma Works project that aims to address the skills gap and connect students to programs that will help build the workforce of Oklahoma’s second largest industry.
Aviation and aerospace in Oklahoma supports 206,000 jobs with an average salary of $73,300 annually. “After a two-year study concluded in 2017 by the Commission, we know that the Aviation and Aerospace industry in Oklahoma is responsible for $43.7 billion in annual economic activity. Workforce is critical to the viability of the industry,” said Bird.
Oklahoma invests more money in aerospace and aviation education than any other state. The Commission’s program has been nationally recognized, enjoying a positive reputation as one of the most robust aviation education programs among state aviation agencies. Since FY2001, it has awarded over $2.8M in aerospace and aviation education grants.
In order for a program to be eligible for an aviation education grant or contract, it must meet certain requirements in the Oklahoma Administrative Code. Most importantly, the program must demonstrate that its curriculum is geared toward aviation and aerospace. Applicants must provide receipts and are only reimbursed for those items outlined in the application for their program.
The following grants were approved by OAC Commissioners August 7:
• Ada City School District, $23,000
• Air Force Association, $2,000
• Alva High School, $2,500
• Atoka Elementary School, $2,500
• Blackwell Public Library, $2,308
• Boy Scouts of America – Arbuckle Area Council, $1,662
• Cache Public Schools, $2,700
• Cameron University, $1,120
• City of Altus, $2,000
• Elk City Middle School, $4,900
• Enid Public Schools, $7,810
• FIRST Robotics Competition, $7,500
• Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, $15,000
• Guthrie Edmond Regional Airport, $1,500
• KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, $10,500
• McAlester High School, $5,000
• Merritt Public Schools, $1,275
• MetroTechnology Centers, Aviation Career Campus, ACE Camp, $13,250
• Newspapers in Education Institute, $5,000
• OkBest Robotics, $1,500
• Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation, $10,000
• Oklahoma Engineering Foundation, Inc., $5,000
• Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics Foundation, $1,500
• Oklahoma Science and Engineering Foundation, $5,000
• Oklahoma State University, Speedfest, $10,000
• Oklahoma WONDERtorium, $6,700
• Okmulgee Public School, $5,630
• Ponca City Regional Airport, $10,200
• Putnam City High School (Air Force JROTC), $12,000
• Rose State College, $12,020
• Sand Springs Public Schools, $2,000
• Southeastern Oklahoma State University, $6,500
• STARBASE Oklahoma Inc., $25,000
• Tulsa Community College, $2,530
• Tulsa Community WorkAdvance, $15,930
• Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, Inc., $5,000
• University Center at Ponca City Foundation, $2,000
• University of Oklahoma, Sooner Flight Academy, $46,000
• Wilburton Public Schools, $3,200