Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Promotes Aviation, Aerospace Careers

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The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has approved education grants totaling more than $100,000 in its latest round of funding to promote careers in the aviation and aerospace industries.

The grants also support courses in science, technology, engineering and math.

Funding approved by the commissioners include a $53,490 aviation grant to provide student scholarships and internships for the University of Oklahoma's annual Sooner Flight Academy next summer in Norman. More than 1,000 elementary, middle school and high school students are expected to participate in the 2010 academy.

Lauren Mitchell, director of the Sooner Flight Academy, said the goal of the academy is to provide opportunities for students to develop an interest in aviation and pursue a career in aviation or a related field.

With the latest round of funding, the commission has approved education grants totaling $170,000 during the fiscal year that started July 1 and more than $1 million in education grants and contracts since 2000. Grants issued during the fiscal year ended June 30 totaled $146,000.

Commission officials expect job openings in the state aviation and aerospace industries.

"In light of the large number of retirements we are expecting to see within Oklahoma's aviation and aerospace work force within the next decade, supporting programs like these is critical to the viability and growth of Oklahoma's top employer, the aerospace industry," said Victor Bird, Aeronautics Commission director. "We are the envy of many of my peers across the nation because of the amount the commission invests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and aviation education programs. Maintaining that support will be vital for the future health and well-being of the industry."

Two of the grants are for robotics.

The commission approved a $5,000 contract for First - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - Robotics to help support the Oklahoma regional competition on March 25 to 27 in Oklahoma City. The goal of First Robotics is to get Oklahoma students excited about using their knowledge and skills to develop a working robot.

About 1,000 high school students and hundreds of volunteers and mentors are expected to participate in the competition, said Harold Holley, regional director of First Robotics. Students will work in teams to design, build and program robots from a standard set of parts.

The goal is to increase interest in engineering careers, Holley said.

Oklahoma State University was awarded a $3,000 grant to help support the Robotics Quick Build Session and Programming Workshop, a kickoff event for the First Robotics regional competition. …