Rotarians learn about RHS Aerospace Program
By Donna Brown Wilkerson

Posted on December 3, 2014 1:40 PM

Teacher Tracy Naylor and several Russellville High School students recently made a presentation to the Russellville Rotary Club about the Aerospace Program at RHS and the importance of the aviation industry in the Commonwealth.

RHS sophomores Johnny Drumgole, Milam Watkins, Riley Lawson, and Spencer Statton and RHS freshman Phillip Wilkerson told the group about their ambitions to enter the fields of flight, aerospace engineering, and aircraft maintenance. They also relayed how the program at RHS is helping them reach their goals through increased science and math instruction and hands-on activities such as building and flying model planes, launching model rockets, and going to competitions in flight simulation, flight plans, and aircraft recognition.

RHS is among 25 Kentucky high schools who, though the partnership with the Institute for Aerospace Education (IAE), offer an aerospace program. The program, which began at RHS during the 2013-14 school year, is designed to be a mix of hands-on industry applications with an intense, college-ready STEM curricula. The program prepares students for several possible aerospace career paths including flight/aero technology, flight & aeronautics, aircraft maintenance, aviation operations & management, air traffic control, aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering, space systems engineering, aerospace computer engineering, airport design and construction (civil), unmanned aerial systems, and advanced manufacturing systems.

The freshman year of the program covers basic orientation of the aerospace industry: flight/aeronautics, aircraft maintenance, aeronautical engineering, and space. In their sophomore year, students develop more in-depth, practical knowledge and experience in aeronautics and flight. In their junior year, students specify a career pathway, and classes become more focused. Seniors can focus their studies in either advanced aviation science, preparation for the private pilot written examination, or flight. Many classes are dual credit for college. During the course of the program, students have opportunities to operate regional jet simulators, take specialized courses for career pathway completion, and develop mentoring relationships with industry professionals.

Naylor, who administers the aerospace program at RHS, stressed to the Rotarians the many opportunities presented to students by program, stating that that there is a “wide open job market here in Kentucky” for aerospace students because the aerospace industry is at least a $12 billion industry that employs over 130,000 Kentuckians. According to Naylor, there are 47 manufacturers of aviation-related products in the state, making the aerospace industry the number one exporter of products in Kentucky, surpassing even the automotive industry.

The IAE program partners with several universities to provide high school seniors with dual credit opportunities. Participating universities include Embry-Riddle, Eastern Kentucky University (9 credits in flight & aeronautics and operations & maintenance), Morehead State (6 credits and in space systems engineering, satellite applications and astrophysics programs), Kentucky State University (14 credits in aerospace computer engineering program), and Middle Tennessee State University (3 credits for air traffic programs). Depending upon their career path, students may also obtain their private pilot’s license prior to graduating from high school. 

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