NEWPORT NEWS—The Hampton Roads Chapter of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) held its Mid-Atlantic Advanced Air Mobility Educators Conference on Wednesday, May 24 at the James River Country Club in Newport News. The conference centered on the different programs that area schools are adding to their curriculums for advanced air mobility (drones) and the opportunities that are available to students coming out of those programs.
“There have been lots of things going on across the state of Virginia from an educator’s standpoint with advanced air mobility, which can be all the way from small drones delivering packages all the way up to some of the new, soon to be in use commercial electric aircraft, and, probably not far behind that, hydrogen electric-powered aircraft,” said Dan Wolfe, president of the Hampton Roads Chapter of AUVSI. “So, it’s a really transformational time in aviation. I think all of us have a stake in the future and it’s really exciting to see this much change going on in such a short period of time. I think it’s critical to build that pipeline of students and then have a place for them to go, which is why we’re here today. In many ways, that’s part of the problem of exponential growth in this space.”
Before hearing from area schools on the programs they are currently offering, Scott Bellows of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium addressed how they are trying to build that pipeline from schools into the working world so talent can meet demand.
“The Virginia Space Grant Consortium is a coalition of five Virginia colleges and universities, NASA, and state agencies,” said Bellows. “We offer scholarships, internships, teacher professional development, and student programs. We have an emphasis on aerospace, but we deal with all STEM educational opportunities.”
One of the facets of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium programming is called the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP). The program has placed more than 1,000 students in paid internships since it began in 2013.
“The Virginia Space Grant Consortium gives me access to students and teachers for professional development and direct instruction with students and internships, and AUVSI gives me access to industry,” said Bellows. “So, I’m able to make those connections to internships and employment opportunities and exposure. It’s like a dating service, except we’re working with students and companies, and we’re getting them together.”