Plans are coming together for the launch of a new aeronautics academy on the campus of Stall High School this fall.
Charleston County school leaders expect the Aeronautical Studies Academy to be one of their premier career and technology education offerings. The academy will be among the ways the district will build its connection to Boeing, which plans to open an aircraft assembly plant in North Charleston.
“I’m really happy with the way it is starting,” said Lou Martin, the associate superintendent who oversees district high schools. “We have the foundation. It’s going to be successful.”
District leaders consulted with independent aeronautical engineers, drew from their experience in touring a similar program elsewhere, and talked with Boeing officials for ideas on how to structure the new program.
“We’ve not done this blindly,” Martin said. “We’ve done a lot of research to put this together.”
The academy will have two tracks — one for students who are interested in going to college and pursuing a degree in aeronautical science or engineering, and another for students who will go to a two-year college for some advanced skills training or go directly to work.
The courses for college-bound students will be focused on engineering and part of the national Project Lead the Way program, which prepares students for careers in science, math, technology and engineering. These courses already are offered elsewhere in the district, but they will be different at Stall High because they will be tied to aeronautics, said David Roemer, a Wando High engineering teacher who is creating the academy’s introductory course.
For example, students in engineering courses at Wando High might learn how to use a modeling program by designing a toy or tool. Students in the Aeronautical Studies Academy at Stall High might learn the same program by doing a project involving an airplane passenger seat or exit door, Roemer said.
The second track will be focused on aircraft manufacturing, and it will have a strong affiliation with Trident Technical College. Classes will be more hands-on, and students will have the opportunity to earn dual credits and certifications that could be used in the aircraft industry.
“The academy is going to appeal to a broader base of students than just an engineering program or just a technical program,” he said.
The first course that will be offered this fall at Stall High will be Introduction to Aeronautical Studies. It’s the first of its kind in the district, and it’s intended to give students an overview of the major components of both the engineering and manufacturing tracks. Roemer said it should give students a better idea of their interests and abilities.
The academy is open to students across the district, but only about 20, most of whom attend Stall High, signed up for the introductory course. Martin said he was hoping more students would be interested, but he expects the demand for the class to grow once word spreads about it.
“I think we’ll have more kids in 2011-12,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting all the programs in place.”
The new Stall High campus has two rooms that will be used for the new academy — a large workroom that will be dedicated to the hands-on portion and a computer lab. Boeing also has given the district a $50,000 grant to train teachers for the program.
Boeing’s expansion to Charleston has sparked development in all economic planes, and the school district has the responsibility to respond to the work force needs by preparing students, Martin said.
“I’m excited that we’re a part of this, and I look forward to seeing what unfolds.”