In light of COVID-19, the Minnesota Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camp was transformed into a day-camp, offering three days this summer for students grades 9-12 to attend and learn about the different career options in the aviation field.
Founded in 1991 with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), MN ACE Camp was developed to promote, educate, and expose high school students to a wide variety of aviation careers. Over the last 30 years, more than 1,000 students have graduated from the camp, many of whom are now industry leaders, professionals, counselors, and volunteers.
The events were hosted at Fleming Field in the South St. Paul Airport in June and July 2021. Students were put into groups and attended sessions throughout the day – with NCAT being one of the main group sessions.
NCAT was one of four modules visited by all the attendees of the camp and provided students with hands-on activities, really allowing them to jump-in and see if an aviation career sparks their interest. The 55-minute module began with a 20-minute presentation on drones – covering the rich history of unmanned aviation, the current airframes/sensors/uses for UAS, a peek at what the future holds for drones and an overview of potential career paths for students in unmanned aviation.
Following the presentation, students spent time at the three interactive learning stations:
- Virtual Reality Station – allowed students to interact in immersive environments, viewing drone and aviation 360-degree videos
- Simulator Station – students flew various unmanned aircraft and learned flight control basics
- Drone Cage Station – students were able to fly real Parrot Mambo drones
Other activities throughout the event included touring a seaplane maintenance facility, listening-in on a live air traffic controller broadcast, learning flight planning as well as meet and greets with airline pilots, aeronautical engineers, and flight attendants.
Student feedback from the NCAT module was very positive – they found the hands-on activities to be a lot of fun. Connecting the dots between flying a drone – a fun activity and showing them how the activity could turn into a career is the best part of hosting events and modules like this.