Aerospace Education Stages 2023-2024 ACE Liftoff
Civil Air Patrol's Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program took center stage Nov. 15 in central Florida as the 2023 National CAP ACE School of the Year and the National CAP ACE Teacher of the Year hosted the program liftoff for 2023-2024.
Goldsboro Elementary Magnet School in Sanford and its STEM teacher, Robert Wakelyn, did the honors in hosting the launch for the program, found in more than 500 schools across the nation. Principal Chris Mulholland led the liftoff program, which featured STEM exhibits and activities for the students as well as special guests and speakers.
CAP’s Aerospace Connections in Education program is a K-6 multidisciplinary educational experience that uses the aerospace theme to promote academics with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), character education, and physical fitness for living a healthy and drug-free lifestyle.
The program is in its 17th year and has impacted three-quarters of a million students nationwide since its inception.
The liftoff event began with cadets from the Florida Wing’s Lake Composite Squadron presenting the colors.
Guests represented the Seminole County School System, including the superintendent’s and academic offices and school board members, as well as area CAP squadrons and the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA)’s Space Coast and Martin H. Harris chapters.
AFA is a sponsor of the national ACE program, and both local chapters helped sponsor the distinctive purple ACE program shirts for the school’s 900 students and 100 faculty and staff members.
Maj. A.J. Ingle, Florida Wing Group 4 commander, spoke to the students, as did the national AFA Education Council vice president and Harris chapter leader, Sharon Branch.
CAP Lt. Col. Edward Jung of the Space Coast AFA chapter and 1st Lt. James Langford of the Florida Wing’s 463rd Composite Squadron also addressed those in attendance.
Wakelyn, who incorporates several STEM programs in the school’s Space Lab, complimented the structured ACE program for kindergarten through fifth grade.
“The ACE program is the only grade-specific program I can use throughout the year with all grade levels,” he said.
“This program, added to the wonderful free STEM Kits, makes CAP an integral part of our school’s STEM program."
Mulholland shared her pride over the national ACE school award.
“As a STEM magnet school, we try to provide a variety of opportunities for our students, but to be recognized as the top ACE school in the country demonstrates the hard work of Mr. Wakelyn and our entire team in taking advantage of the excellent free STEM programs CAP offers,” she said.
“We appreciate the support of CAP and the AFA to help our students explore the possible.”
After the awards presentation, the students joined in on a countdown to lift off this academic year’s ACE program by launching student-held helicopters before to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office rotorcraft landing for the children to tour.
The students then dispersed to participate in a variety of STEM activities while the guests toured the Space Lab where Wakelyn teaches. In addition, a Seminole County Physics bus was on site to allow the students to explore various physics activities.
To the younger students’ excitement, the fifth-graders ended the day with a lighter-than-air balloon design parade and bottle rocket launches.
To find out how a school, CAP squadron, and/or AFA chapter can be involved in the ACE program, contact email@example.com.