Last month, millions of people around the world watched streaming video as Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk spent 11 minutes aboard the New Shepard rocket on a suborbital flight conducted by Blue Origin. Funk became the oldest person in space sixty years after she trained as an astronaut during the Women in Space Program in 1961. She was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector, as well as one of the Mercury 13. Funk graduated from Oklahoma State University and earned multiple ratings and has logged over 19,600 hours of flying time while earning multiple awards. Her remarkable achievement and our flourishing aerospace industry would not be possible without the scientists, engineers, technicians, and other workers that built and maintained the spacecraft and administered the systems necessary for their operation. An adequate and competent workforce is the key, and aviation education programs like that of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission are critical to helping ensure that we have that workforce.
The need to steer young minds toward aerospace and aviation careers is the force driving the commission’s investment in students, guiding them toward becoming pilots, engineers, mechanics, astronauts, and scientists.
At the commission’s August meeting, 50 organizations were awarded Aerospace and Aviation Education Program grants totaling over $365,000 at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s (OAC) August 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.
The Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program has been awarding aviation education grants for over 30 years. Charged with the mission by state statute, the commission fosters and encourages students to consider aerospace or aviation as a career. The commission’s grant program has served thousands of students across the state. 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.
“The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has led the effort to help advance Oklahoma to be one of the best aviation education and training states in the nation. The nearly 350 good weather flying days that Oklahoma enjoys presents a perfect aviation training opportunity at our state airports. We are building the next generation of aviation professionals and are consistently educating younger generations about careers within the aerospace industry. It is because of our continued dedication to promoting aviation throughout Oklahoma that we are seeing interest and success,” said Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.
This nationally recognized program enjoys a positive reputation as one of the most robust aviation education programs among state aviation agencies. For the 2021-22 school year, Oklahoma will rank #3 in the country in the number of schools teaching the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association curriculum. Since FY2001, the Commission has awarded $4.15 million in aerospace and aviation education grants.
“STEM educational programs are such an important factor for our students and our state. To grow and diversify our economy, we need more kids going into aerospace and aviation careers and supporting STEM programming for students will help achieve those goals. I’m very proud of the grant recipients for their work in encouraging students to explore STEM, and I applaud the Aeronautics Commission for their support of our students and our schools via this terrific grant program.” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
For a program to qualify for an aviation education grant or contract, it must meet certain requirements. Most importantly, the program must demonstrate that its curriculum and goals are geared toward aviation and aerospace.
The commission approved grants totaling $365,804 on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
- Ada City School District, $12,220
- Air Force Association Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter 215, $4,200
- Alva High School, $3,000
- Atoka Elementary School, $2,082
- Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County, $3,000
- Cameron University, $2,000
- Canadian Valley Technology Center, $7,500
- Deer Creek Public Schools, $7,000
- Drumright Public Schools, $5,000
- Duncan Public Schools, $4,000
- Durant Public Schools, 4,500
- East Central University, $1,750
- Edmond North High School (Air Force JROTC), $12,500
- Elmore City-Pernell Public Schools, $8,300
- FIRST Robotics Competition, $7,500
- Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, $2,000
- Grand Aces Aviation Ground School, $2,250
- Guthrie Edmond Regional Airport, $1,350
- Kingfisher Memorial Library, $5,000
- KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, $10,500
- Maysville Public Schools, $1,500
- McAlester High School, $8,000
- Metro Technology Center, and the FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, $12,500
- Mustang High School, $2,617
- OKBest, $2,000
- 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, First Lego League, $5,000
- Oklahoma Science and Engineering Foundation, First Tech Challenge, $2,000
- Oklahoma State University, Middle School Camp, $4,470
- Oklahoma State University, Smart App, $7,000
- Oklahoma State University, Speedfest, $15,750
- Paoli Public Schools, $10,000
- Pauls Valley High School, $5,000
- Ponca City Regional Airport, $8,400
- Poteau Public Schools, $6,550
- Pryor Public Schools, $6,000
- Putnam City High School (Air Force JROTC), $8,000
- Redeemed Flying Corps, $7,500
- Roland Public Schools, $2,695
- Rose State College, $4,000
- Seminole High School, $6,500
- Southeast High School (Air Force JROTC), $2,900
- Southeastern Oklahoma State University, $6,500
- Stafford Air & Space Museum, $20,000
- STARBASE Oklahoma Inc., $25,000
- The 99s Museum of Women Pilots, $6,000
- Tulsa Community WorkAdvance, $12,500
- University of Oklahoma, Sooner Flight Academy, $45,000