Summer + STEM = ACE Academy

Who’s ready for summer? Right about now, probably every kid in the good ‘ol U.S.A. Schools around the country are closing the book on another successful year and parents are wrapping up plans for vacation and summer activities for the kiddos.

For some families, one summer experience for their older children might be to attend Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy, sponsored in part by the FAA and their STEM AVSED program.

What is ACE Academy?

ACE Academy is an interactive summer experience for middle and high school students. Through fun, hands-on activities, ACE Academy introduces participants to a wide range of aviation and aerospace career opportunities.

The first ACE Academy experience took place in 1989, after new FAA Administrator James Busey strongly supported expanding the FAA’s educational activities and encouraged FAA employees to get more involved in aviation education initiatives. In August 1989, the FAA co-sponsored with the Civil Air Patrol and the Rescue Officers Association the first Youth Aviation Career Academy (later called ACE Academy). The first academy was attended by 64 students.

Just two years later, the FAA held 17 ACE academies for close to 450 children. More than 25 years later, in 2009, the FAA participated in or sponsored 77 ACE academies, 36 teacher workshops and 217 career days. The highest number of ACE academies occurred in 2011, with 82 camps being sponsored around the country. Since its beginning, ACE Academy events have reached well over 325,000 students and over 15,000 teachers!

What happens at ACE Academy?

ACE academies happen throughout the summer in many U.S. states and no two programs are identical. All of the programs are based in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Throughout the academy, which could last a few days or up to a week, students may enjoy activities including:

  • Lessons in flight planning, aviation history, and the physics of flight
  • Instruction on aircraft design and maintenance
  • Field trips to aviation sites
  • Flight simulations and, in some locations, flights in aircraft

Each day at their academy, students learn about specific aviation careers, such as pilot, air traffic controller, aircraft maintenance technician, aeronautical engineer, airport managers and more.

“A Summer to Remember”

There are lots of great stories about ACE Academy students who go on to have a career in aviation or aerospace, thanks largely in part to the ACE Academy experience he or she had as a middle or high schooler. Here’s one of those stories:

In 2015, the first-ever ACE academy in Northern New Jersey took place. It was sponsored by the NBCFAE Northeast Region and the Eagle Flight Pilot Training Academy in East Orange, NJ. Eagle Flight is a non-profit helping high school teens earn their private pilot license.

The NJ academy was made possible by co-founder Wayne Hubbard, a former ACE Academy student and current FAA employee. Hubbard credits his inspiration for the camp to an aviation camp experience he had as a teen. Thanks to Hubbard and the academy sponsors, the NJ academy was a big success.

“The ACE Camp in New Jersey was a true learning experience for everyone involved. But for a first time endeavor, it was a tremendous success. The kids were blown away by what they experienced, and to be honest – we were too,” shared Michael Chisholm, Eagle Flight Director. 

Learn More

Kudos to all of the aviation organizations around the country who support ACE academies. These events not only provide a fun, educational, hands-on experience for students but also bring a greater sense of community involvement to towns where all the activities take place.

To learn more about ACE academies, check out the videos below. And to learn more about STEM education and why it’s so important, read our recent blog post.

Video:  Volunteer at an ACE Academy

Video: What will I do at an ACE Academy?