The AERO (AEROnautics, Engineering, Research, Opportunities) AV8R Program at Aspen School District transforms learning math and physics, which can be challenging and often dry subjects, into a fascinating, hands-on educational experience through building and flying airplanes. It is the only program in the country that integrates all aspects of flying into the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) approach to learning. It starts with summer camp, and before/after-school programs for elementary and middles school students that include everything from constructing motorized, remote controlled, model aircraft to operating flight simulators. Middle schoolers can then deepen their knowledge in the Junior Ground School and Explorations program. Their exceptional classroom consists of a state-of-the-art flight simulator, three huge flat screen TVs to show flight videos, a bank of desktop flight simulators with pedals, models of airplanes, and the feeling of soaring above the trees. The opportunities become expansive for high schoolers with a host of Experiential Education courses, and formal training that has led to several students earning their pilot’s license!

“The four core values that are woven through the program’s lessons, activities and structure are commitment, perseverance, respect and honor. In addition, students are taught incredibly valuable life skills such as responsibility, time management, goal setting and achievement, decision making, how to think on their feet (or in the seat), and a higher level of technological literacy. Not only can students receive college credit, they create an impeccable resume.”
Greg Roark, Director of AEROnautics at the Aspen School District

A Future in AEROnautics

There will soon be a critical shortage of pilots. The AEROnautics program is hoping to help fill that gap. Career exploration and readiness is a large component of the program that serves over 200 kids annually. Through exposure to aircraft manufacturers, designers, pilots, educators and historians – participants get a clear understanding of the industry. Students who pursue a career in AEROnautics have been accepted into top educational institutions and flight programs including the Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Stanford University, MIT, and The U.S. Marine Corps.

It takes about $300,000 to run the program annually. While the Aspen School District hosts the program, all funds come from grants and donations.  The needs of the AEROnautics program are many and include:

  • Creating more depth in the programming
  • Developing team-teaching opportunities in the classroom