With the help of a $50,000 grant from The Boeing Company, Dallas’s Frontiers of Flight Museum has plans to expand its classes and programs emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Their new education initiative titled “Flight Path: Awareness to Achievement” was announced by Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, Frontiers of Flight Museum Chief Executive Officer and Jay Sutorius, Program Manager of the Dallas Division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security at the museum Mon., May 12.
They were joined by museum supporters, representatives from the aviation industry and the Dallas philanthropic and business communities, including one of the Frontiers of Flight Museum Founders, former United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Director of Education, Dr. Jason Treadway, explained how the museum will merge STEM and history.
“Aviation, history and STEM are all interrelated,” Treadway said. “It’s hard to imagine one without the other. Everywhere you look in our museum, STEM is present. Think of the many innovations in materials, avionics, propulsion, design, manufacturing that have advanced technology.
“Right here, behind me, we have the 1903 Wright Flyer,” Treadway said. “Next to that…is the Apollo 7 command module. Only 65 years span these two great achievements. Without STEM, neither of these would have been possible. This is one of the true assets of our institution. STEM is everywhere. It’s part of our fabric, part of our DNA.”
Boeing’s partnership with the museum is in effort to engage more students in STEM.
“Aviation is a critical part of our economy in Texas,” Sutorius said. “The nearly 5,000 Boeing employees across Texas work on everything from space exploration, aircraft maintenance and electronic assembly, to flight training management.
“We would like to see more (workers) come into that pipeline and be part of all the good things that we do,” Sutorius said. “It’s a great career path. It’s exciting to be involved in aviation and aeronautics, and as an aeronautical engineer, I’ve been living it 30 years myself, and I look forward to getting more kids into it.
“One of the significant ways the museum is addressing this is being grounded in history and using a new forward thinking approach to teaching for experience and hands-on approach,” Sutorius said. “This vision will help inspire the next generation of aerospace workers. Boeing invests in programs where students can practice and apply themselves in real and relevant ways.”
Sutterfield-Jones said that 20.4 percent of all workers in DFW hold STEM positions and that one-third of those are imported from outside the state.
“This is where we can excite kids about the opportunities of a STEM education,” U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutcheson said. “The technology companies that I’m involved with could hire every engineering graduate in every engineering university in Texas and still have to go outside to get their requirement every year for engineers. That is a recipe for action. Many of the STEM requirements are technical in nature and do not require an engineering degree or college degree, and those are great paying jobs for our community.”
Sutterfield-Jones said the museum’s goal is to help the community fill those jobs by inspiring students to go into STEM careers.
“The education begins at all levels from the youngest child that walks into the museum all the way up to high school and college,” Sutterfield-Jones said. “We want children to catch that awe when they walk into the museum.
“Because of a generous contribution from Boeing, we are ready to roll out a new strategically focused education program that squarely looks at STEM and these needs in our community,” Sutterfield-Jones said. “STEM is more than a buzzword. STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to education.
“This museum is STEM – anything we do, we are all about STEM,” she said. “We take that academic concept and couple that with real world lessons and end up with a dynamic and inspiring program for students. In the short term, students increase their technical literacy. In the long term, we end up being the pipeline of STEM workers that our community desperately needs.”
“We are committed to putting best practices in place and putting resources behind it…to provide jobs from everything from ground workers, flight attendants, pilots and engineers,” Sutterfield-Jones said.
The museum is creating advanced programs for high school students with components that focus on girls and diversity while providing multiple exposures to content.
“As an institution of informal education, we offer the ability to bridge the gap between theory learned in the classroom and practice, by applying students’ knowledge to real life application,” Treadway said. “As a father of two young girls, I am most passionate about attracting more young women to STEM education.”
During spring break, a week-long program at the museum is planned for children with older girls serving as mentors through an internship program during the camp.