Ideas in Action: Aerospace Engineering Program Launching Students into Future High-paying Jobs

Monday, March 26, 2018 | Safal Partners

Key Takeaway: Career and technical education in high-paying, high-demand fields may inspire high school students to pursue jobs in these fields later as well as further study in higher education.

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Georgetown High School

Enrollment: 1,926 students
English Learners: 3.3%
Disadvantaged: 24.7%
Students with Disabilities: 7.5%
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East View High School

Enrollment: 1,550 students
English Learners: 7.9%
Disadvantaged: 49.4%
Students with Disabilities: 8.8%
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“We had this crazy idea to build an airplane with a class of high school students.”

That idea isn’t so crazy these days, explains aerospace engineering teacher Dan Weyant of Georgetown Independent School District (ISD) in central Texas. Weyant points to recent SpaceX missions and the expected doubling of commercial air travel over the next two decades as evidence of this class’ relevance to the modern Aerospace industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that aerospace engineering jobs are expected to grow six percent through 2026, as more countries refocus on space exploration and on redesigning aircrafts for better fuel efficiency and less noise pollution.

The aerospace engineering program at Georgetown ISD was launched in 2016 and involves 24 students from both East View High School and Georgetown High School. The students built their first plane in the program’s first year, and the class is expected to build another this year.

The two-seat metal RV-12 airplanes the students build are funded and owned by Tango Flight, a nonprofit Weyant founded to help raise money for the program. The program costs about $80,000 per year to manage. Tango Flight partnered with Georgetown ISD and Project Lead The Way to get the program off the ground, with some initial funding from the City of Georgetown. Local aviation businesses at the Georgetown Municipal Airport have also supplied hangar space, sponsorships, and even mentorship.

The students take aerospace engineering classes every other day for two periods. This kind of hands-on, immersive experience may improve student outcomes in the future, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Students with greater exposure to career and technical education in high school are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages, according to a 2016 report. Students who take more career and technical education courses are also just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers.

Weyant said he believes it’s better to have a student take his class and decide in high school that engineering is not for him or her than to drop out of a college program.

“They know what they’re getting into,” he stated.

To read more about this program, visit Tango Flight’s website. To learn more about Georgetown ISD, visit their website.

Photo credit: Carlie Porterfield/Community Impact Newspaper