OKLAHOMA (OBV) – Aerospace and defense is Oklahoma’s fastest growing industry, and the state is paving the runway for future aerospace careers to take off and launch the state’s workforce to new heights.
The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is investing in the future of flight by dedicating large amounts of money into aero education.
The Aeronautics Commission approved grants totaling $502,885 during the commission’s Aug. 9 meeting, and will provide over $1 million in total to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) schools, aerospace programs and aviation-centric organizations during the FY2024 budget year.
The state agency’s $1 million investment in aero education topped the nation in aero education investment for the fall semester of 2023.
“I am so proud that the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is equipping students with the training and resources they need to pursue a future in our state’s second-largest industry,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz. “Oklahoma has a rich history in aerospace and aviation, and I am glad to see the continued investments that make us Top Ten in this growing field.”
The commission implemented its largest yet Aero Education Program for FY 2024 with an investment eclipsing $1 million.
Oklahoma high schools teaching the AOPA “You Can Fly” curriculum will receive funds to provide students supplies and professional development opportunities.
The commission also approved $125,000 in funds to develop or improve classroom laboratories where aviation and aerospace programs are taught.
Also, the agency greenlit its four major aerospace education events – Oklahoma Student Pilot Day, and Oklahoma UAS Teacher Training and Awareness Conference, the Oklahoma AERO Education Training and Professional Development Symposium and Oklahoma Superintendents Aviation Day – during the meeting.
The Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program is now in its third decade of awarding aerospace and aviation education grants.
Grants totaling $502,885 were awarded to 71 educational organizations during this month’s meeting, setting another record.
Organizations that conduct targeted learning programs that directly apply to aerospace and aviation for primary through post-secondary education are qualified to receive grants.
Grant-supported programs include four-year high school curriculums such as the AOPA “You Can Fly” effort, summer camps offered by major universities, drone racing competitions, a two-year high school curriculum dedicated to teaching aircraft mechanics, after-school STEM activities, tours at various airports across the system and numerous others. These programs will reach almost 50,000 students throughout Oklahoma.
Aerospace and Defense is a top industry in Oklahoma, generating $56.2 million in total expenditures for fiscal year 2022. The industry includes 1,100 companies providing 120,000 direct jobs.
Aeronautics Commission officials said a safe, reliable and economically viable air transportation system is critical for commerce and communities throughout the state.
“Oklahoma’s airports are not just critical to that air transportation mission, but they are also key to unlocking the awareness and passion behind our state’s available aerospace careers,” commission officials said.
The commission connects AOPA schools, Aero Education Grant recipients and other aviation-centric programs to airports and aviators to inspire students as well as adult Oklahomans to choose aviation and aerospace as a possible career.
“The Oklahoma legislature and our state leaders are certainly driving what we are calling a renaissance for aerospace and aviation, but Oklahoma’s educators in the classrooms are the professionals helping to vector these young minds towards an aerospace career,” said State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies. “Whether it’s Oklahoma’s continued #1 ranking with 80+ schools teaching the AOPA high school curriculum, our award-winning Aero education program, or the host of industry partners we work with, Oklahoma has never been better positioned to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s aerospace workforce.”
A capable workforce is needed to meet the needs of the swiftly-growing aerospace and defense industry, according to state aerospace officials.
“In my 40 years in public education I never experienced anything as remarkable as the tremendous growth of aviation education that has taken place in Oklahoma schools in the past few years,” said Paula Kedy, Aerospace and Aviation Education Coordinator for the agency. “I am so proud to have the opportunity to work with teachers and entities across the state that are committed to providing strong aviation STEM opportunities for students,” Kedy continued.
The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) has recognized the program’s efforts twice. The program is reputed for investing millions in aerospace and aviation education programs statewide.
Below is the list of schools that the Aeronautics Commission approved for grant money and the amount that was approved for each school:
- Ada City Public Schools, $5,680
- Alva High School, $2,800
- Ardmore High School, $1,600
- Cameron University, $2,495
- Charles Page Freshman Academy, $1,890
- Chelsea Public Schools, $7,239
- Claremore NJROTC, $2,697
- Collinsville Public Schools, $6,000
- Cushing High School, $1,430
- Deer Creek Public Schools, $1,600
- Dove Schools of Oklahoma, $5,000
- Durant Public Schools, $1,375
- East Central University, $3,640
- ECHO Homeschool Extension, $2,250
- Elmore City Pernell Public Schools, $5,525
- Enid Public Schools, $15,138
- FIRST, $7,500
- Grandfield Public Schools, $550
- Great Plains Technology, $7,350
- Grove High School, $5,250
- Ketchum High School, $2,257
- Kingfisher Public Schools, $7,962
- KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, $10,500
- Lawton High School, $9,000
- Lexington High School, $6,800
- McAlester Public School, $6,000
- Mid-Del Technology Center, $9,700
- Moore Norman Technology Center, $2,617
- Mustang High School, $4,200
- Norman Public Schools, $13,590
- Oilton Public Schools, $5,100
- Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation, $10,000
- Oklahoma Engineering Foundation, Inc., $4,000
- Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics Foundation, $1,500
- Oklahoma Science & Engineering Foundation First Lego League, $5,000
- Oklahoma State University Speedfest, $17,000
- Oklahoma State University (Tulsa) Girls in Aviation Day, $2,700
- Paoli Public Schools, $6,925
- Pauls Valley High School, $5,100
- Pawhuska Schools, $5,000
- Piedmont Public Schools, $7,576
- Ponca City Regional Airport, $7,500
- Port of Muskogee, $2,300
- Pryor Public Schools, $ 8,000
- Putnam City Schools (North), $4,400
- Redeemed Flying Corps, $10,000
- Rose State College, $15,000
- Route 66 Flight School, $2,808
- Sallisaw Public Schools, $6,000
- Seminole High School, $6,450
- Southeastern Oklahoma State University, $10,000
- Southern Tech, $10,000
- STARBASE Oklahoma, Inc., $25,000
- Stillwater Public Schools, $5,994
- Stroud Public Schools, $4,000
- Tahlequah High School, $6,900
- Terra Verde Discovery School, $630
- Tri County Tech, $10,000
- True Sky Credit Union Foundation*/Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, $12,500
- Tulsa Community WorkAdvance, $10,000
- Tupelo High School, $5,325
- Tuttle High School, $6,750
- Union Public Schools, $27,400
- University of Oklahoma, $42,000
- Washington Public Schools, $5,300
- Watts Public Schools, $3,082
- Weatherford Public Schools, $12,500
- Wright City Public Schools, $7,100
- Wyandotte Public Schools, $8,225
- Wynnewood High School, $5,700