N.C. Wing Launches STEM Workshops for Cadets
Capt H.J. Bentley III
Public Affairs Officer
Charlotte Senior Squadron
North Carolina Wing
Sunny dispositions and masked faces greeted 34 cadets from across the North Carolina Wing for the wing’s Inaugural STEM Workshop – Electronics Session at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Charlotte.
The Saturday event – the first of three planned sessions – offered cadets hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities with an introduction to aircraft electrical systems as well as a learning on basic soldering skills and techniques, all while working towards their Civil Air Patrol Cadet STEM Badge.
“CAP cadets are naturally attracted to our organization because we offer flight exposure and aerospace education. Cadets who are interested in learning to fly should also be learning how the planes work and how they are made.” said Maj. Tammy Hallihan, North Carolina Wing assistant director of cadet programs.
Keeping safe with health precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a priority for the event. Every cadet was provided a KN95 mask, new safety glasses and hand sanitizer before entering the facility. Each table had disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer bottles. Thorough cleaning and disinfection were carried out between the morning and afternoon sessions.
The workshop marked the beginning of a partnership between the Aviation Institute of Maintenance and the wing’s cadet programs. “We’ve been working with Maj. Hallihan and Civil Air Patrol since February to make this a reality. This is an excellent opportunity to build a working relationship with CAP to provide STEM opportunities into the future,” said Alex Diaz, Charlotte campus executive director.
“The exposure these cadets gained will give them an appreciation of what aircraft technicians go through in order to gain their certification,” he said.
“While there is a shortage of future pilots, there is also a shortage of certified aircraft maintenance technicians. Studies are showing an additional 192,000 new positions for aircraft maintenance professionals in North America by 2039, and by exposing these cadets we’re sowing the seeds for tomorrow’s successful aviation industry.”
Cadet Airman Medha Muppuri of the Union County Composite Squadron was first in her session to finish her soldering project. “ I joined CAP due to my passion with anything flying or with planes,” Muppuri said. “While I’ve only been in four months, I love the emergency services portion of CAP the most because it tracks so closely with my future career as a physician, but this workshop helped open my eyes to other opportunities.”
While everyone wasn’t as successful in their first attempt at soldering, the cadets all learned the importance of attention to detail and following instructions. “Patience is key,” said Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Brianna Smith of the Gastonia Composite Squadron. “If you get too excited you can’t focus.”
Dave Slaybaugh, an institute instructor who was a CAP senior member in the 1960s, was excited to see so many cadets show up for the inaugural session. “ I hope they can take away a basic knowledge that sparks an interest in a future career in aviation and gives them confidence in working with their hands,” he said.
Cadet Maj. Isabella Ross of the Union County Composite Squadron spoke for many: “It was a whole new experience for me today! This took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to do something new and left me feeling better about myself.”
“At the end of the day this program is our way of giving back to the community and we’re looking forward to working with CAP with the future workshops.” Diaz said.
The second and third workshop dates are pending because of possible future COVID restrictions. All three sessions are projected to be offered annually once the pandemic ends.