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Aviation STEM Events Can’t Be Hidden Gems


On Sept. 26, the FAA’s Aviation Safety Office (AVS) hosted its second STEM Careers Symposium at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event brought hundreds of local middle and high school students from the nation’s capital to 800 Independence Avenue for demonstrations, presentations and exhibits on aviation careers, skills and the government’s oversight of U.S. airspace.

After a welcome from Sunny Lee Fanning, FAA executive director of the Office of Quality, Integration and Executive Services, students divided by age group to take turns visiting the exhibition space in the Bessie Coleman Conference Center and participating in presentations in the Elwood Richard “Pete” Quesada Auditorium. There were lunch breaks and discussions and standing-room-only crowds for a packed agenda that wrapped up quickly as students ran to catch mid-afternoon buses back to their campuses.

“The FAA has produced a good model for student engagement,” said Brett Levanto, ARSA vice president of operations, who attended the event. “They kept the kids moving, engaged them with questions, gave them activities and brought out a series of young, smart, engaging presenters with local ties and personal stories that were familiar for a D.C.-area student.”

Describing ARSA’s purpose at the event – part of the association’s broader effort to support the aviation workforce, which includes both industry and government personnel needs – Levanto noted a number of goals:

(1) Get involved with the FAA’s and others’ existing activities related to stimulating interest in aviation, urging strong representation for maintenance interests.

(2) Help to highlight and distribute available resources, tools and strategies for connecting with new groups of potential industry applicants.

(3) Connect with the various government offices, interest groups and individuals encouraging workforce growth, taking advantage of their work and using them to amplify ARSA’s own efforts for building the next generation of aviation professionals.

“Today was a lot of fun, but we’ve got to do a much better job getting the word out,” Levanto said. “I’m only here because [ARSA] happened to learn about this event via an offhand reference in an email on another topic. We can’t afford to have these secrets anymore; it’s time to start shouting from rooftops. If we do that from this rooftop, at 800 Independence Avenue, the aviation world will hear.”

Groups Represented at the Event

Booz Allen Hamilton Transportation
Code Ninjas
D.C. Flight Club
FAA Aviation and Space Education
FAA Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention (AVP)
United Airlines
University of Maryland Robotics Team

Resources/Activities Shared During Event*

Airport Surface Anomaly Investigation Capability
Aviation Career Academies
Forces in Flight (National Air & Space Museum)
NASAO Art Contest
Real World Design Challenge

Lessons for ARSA Members

The event provides a useful model for any industry stakeholder looking to engage with local students of any age. Coupled with a facility tour or school visit and with participation from local STEM and other groups promoting hands-on skills development, companies could partner with schools, Boy or Girl Scout troops or other community bodies to host similar events.

Stay tuned for more updates and resources from ARSA. In the meantime, visit www.faa.gov/education to see more information and resources regarding STEM and aviation skills outreach.



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