Sanders Aviation in Jasper welcomed approximately 100 Alabama high school students over the summer as part of a Drone Academy to inspire the next generation of scientists and pilots.The Drone Academy …
Sanders Aviation in Jasper welcomed approximately 100 Alabama high school students over the summer as part of a Drone Academy to inspire the next generation of scientists and pilots.
The Drone Academy was sponsored by nonprofit Southern Research and was open to ninth- through 12th-grade students who expressed an interest in aviation or STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Students applied online to participate in the free academy.
Jessica Sanders Walker, the chief operations officer of Sanders Aviation, explained that four groups of students participated in the academy from June 17 through Aug. 2. Each group visited Sanders Aviation on the last day of the Drone Academy to fly their drones.
"Many months ago, Southern Research reached out to us to see if we would like to partner with them to give the kids a more hands-on experience in the field of aviation," Walker said. "I was really excited to be part of that and especially for all of these students to be able to come into Walker County."
Students spent four days in Birmingham at the Southern Research offices to create their drones using a 3D printer, and Sanders Aviation was in charge of creating a fun obstacle course for the students to fly their drones.
"We set up a course for them with hula hoop stands and all this stuff they had to fly the drones through to account for wind and other factors," Walker said.
In addition to flying drones, the students took a tour of Sanders Aviation and learned about the science of flight. Walker said the students were also shown airplane parts and heard from pilots and mechanics about career options in aviation.
"The kids were so excited. They said their favorite part was coming out to Sanders Aviation, and we just loved having them out here — just seeing that young people are so enthusiastic about aviation and about STEM," Walker said. "We're also a proponent of the WCCT's course that's not only about becoming a pilot but becoming a mechanic and becoming all these different things that make the world of aviation grow.
"We're trying to do as much as we can to get young people involved in this, and that's our passion right now. This is one of the largest job gaps that there is, is trying to find people to be mechanics and pilots."
Walker said, to her knowledge, no local students participated in the Drone Academy, but she's hoping they will apply to take part in the learning experience next year.
Sanders Aviation has been serving Jasper since 1996 at the Walker County Airport and providing flight training and an array of services for pilots.
Southern Research is a nonprofit comprised of nearly 400 scientists and engineers with focused areas of study on drug discovery, drug development, engineering, and energy and environment. The company has developed life-saving medications, medical devices and even helped to launch missions to Mars.