“The primary focus is to expose kids to the potential of an occupation where there are going to be a lot of opportunities due to the decline in military pilots because of drones and commercial pilot vacancies as well as lots of opportunities as the drone idea takes off,” Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley said of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University STEM Academy partnership. “... Beginning next year there will be a ninth-grade study skills class with no college credit focused on how do you study, to take online courses and to take college-level coursework.”
He continued, “In 10th grade, they will take two three-semester-hour classes, and if they’re successful, they’ll get six hours of college credit. In 11th grade, they’ll get six more [hours of college credit] and in 12th grade six more, so when they leave [CHS] and if they’re successful, they’ll leave with 18 credit hours.”
Hinesley said students involved in the program will have to take their physical education and health course during the summer following their ninth-grade year. The system’s communication coordinator and Schools Foundation director Lisa Bell will begin recruiting Cartersville Middle School eighth-graders for the program beginning in the spring 2014 semester.
Students initially targeted for the program should have an interest in math and science, Hinesley said, but students will not be turned away due to academic performance.
“We’ll work on trying to identify students who want to be there, that are willing to make the effort to do it, even if their grades don’t quite measure up,” Hinesley said during a press conference Monday, adding that over time the board may establish some prerequisites for the program.
The courses to be offered under the pre-aeronautics track are Introduction to Aeronautical Science; Introduction to Flight; Introduction to Space Flight; Transportation Science; Introduction to Flight Physiology; and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Intro Course. The credits will transfer as electives to the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia under the dual enrollment program.
The courses will be taught by certified ERAU professors. Jim Pennington, director of Science Technology Engineering and Math programs for ERAU, provided some examples of what will be taught within the courses.
“When we’re talking about this freshman-year course ..., a component of this course we want to make clear is aviation is much more than just pilots,” Pennington said during the press conference. “You’ve got aviation maintenance, aviation management, logistics, supply chain — you have so many aspects that go into aviation and all those different areas are growing.”
During their senior year, students following the track will learn about unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise referred to as “drones.”
“... With the UAS Intro Course, it’s very popular and it’s a fairly new course even for our college. ... The schools are very excited about it, some of the requirements for the course are [working with] quadcopters, especially when you talk about regulation of UAS and how you can utilize and follow the law and regulation — that’s a big part of that course, but there’s a lot of competition-based stuff in that. ...That’s a very interesting course because there is a lot of competition and scholarships available in that area.”
He said Introduction to Space Flight, which students will take their junior year, recently has been revamped at ERAU.
“[The course] used to focus on the space shuttle program, ... but now the space shuttle program is no more so a lot of our focus is on commercial aerospace ..., a quickly growing industry,” Pennington said.
Hinesley said the high school will work to create an environment conducive to aeronautical education.
“[Principal] Steve Butler is going to designate a single classroom [first year], an additional room the second year and those, to some degree, will be dedicated to [the track] and with Tellus [Science Museum’s] help, we will configure those classrooms to reflect an aeronautics theme,” Hinesley said.
Beyond Tellus, the program also will partner with Phoenix Air.
“One of the things [ERAU] wanted to do was look for a high school that wasn’t real large ..., to see if we could make a model where they could expand to other areas and other high schools where the population wasn’t 2,500 to 5,000 [students],” Hinesley said, adding CHS currently has about 1,100 students.
According to a press release proved by ERAU, the school was founded in 1926 and is “the world’s leader” in aviation and aerospace education with campuses located in Daytona Beach, Fla., Prescott, Ariz. and its Worldwide campus, which features more than 150 individual campuses in the U.S., Canada Europe and the Middle East. In Georgia there are campuses in Savannah, Marietta, Valdosta and Warner Robbins as well as the CHS STEM academy.
“The track was picked to generate interest from kids, but not to take away an opportunity from [other students] who aren’t interested to take a course they want to take,” Hinesley said.
Hinesley said the goal is to see about 20 students a year enrolled in the program. He said cost of the program will be completely funded by taxpayer dollars and will equate to about $160,000 over four years.
“There are a lot of kids who have an interest in things dealing with aeronautics. That doesn’t mean they’ll end up in [that career], but this will expose them to it,” Hinesley said. “Plus, it gives them access to college credit they wouldn’t have access to otherwise, unless it was through additional core courses.”
Butler reiterated his statements.
“I believe this is an amazing opportunity for the students of Cartersville High School and our community,” Butler said. “We’re the first [school] in Georgia that is having this ... and we’re really fortunate in that regard. It’s one of those situations where our students will get a huge benefit from Embry-Riddle’s desire to spread what they’re doing.”