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Aviation career summer camp at Wayne State will soar into 17th year during week of July 13

Flights over city are highlight of weeklong program

July 13, 2009

For a firsthand look at aviation in its many facets, few youths could have a better opportunity than that provided by the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy centered at Wayne State University. The annual summer camp, which begins July 13, will include flights over the city in private airplanes in addition to visits to various facilities at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Coleman A. Young International Airport, and Selfridge Air National Guard Base. And that's just part of the weeklong program.

Working closely with several aviation-related organizations, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the university offers 8th-10th graders from metro Detroit schools a program packed with activities aimed at generating interest in aviation careers. Students are able to interact with members of the sponsoring organizations to learn about their career experiences.

Field trips include tours and demonstrations at Selfridge, Detroit Metro and Coleman A. Young (formerly Detroit City) airports. In addition, there are sessions on the history and theory of aviation, navigation and weather. A model rocket and radio-controlled model airplane demonstration as well as a tour of the Tuskegee Airmen Museum at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit are on the agenda. Students receive an aviation information binder as a reference tool.

Cooperating with the university, the FAA and the Tuskegee Airmen in planning and carrying out the numerous activities are the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, and Black Pilots of America. About 20 students will participate in the program this year.

Interest in the ACE Academy at WSU has been fairly consistent year to year, according to William Robinson Jr., who has acted as a coordinator for the program since the university undertook its role as host. He is director of Wayne State's Gear-Up/College Day Program, which encourages and assists Detroit Public Schools students to prepare for post-secondary education.

"We work through teachers and counselors in the schools to promote the ACE Academy," Robinson explains. "And we get inquiries throughout the year from parents who have heard about the program or find information on the university's website for K-12 summer programs.

To be admitted, students must obtain an application from their school or from a member of one of the sponsoring organizations. The program depends heavily on volunteers, and some financial support, from the participating organizations.

"Our volunteers, all of them with some background in aviation and many of them pilots, are really the heart of the program," Robinson points out. "Without them we couldn't have kept the summer camp going all these years. Several of them use vacation time to be available for the camp, and some even provide their own planes on the day we have flights over the city."

Although the university does not formally track the career paths of students who participate in the ACE Academy, program coordinators say many participants comment that they plan to look into aviation careers. At least one now has his pilot's license and is enrolled in an aviation science program at Western Michigan University.

"We know there are still many opportunities in aviation-related fields for qualified people, "Robinson says. "A major focus of the ACE Academy is to give young people an idea of how to pursue those opportunities."

The ACE program was started by the FAA and is held in various areas of the country where local organizers and co-sponsoring groups are available. The camp at Wayne State concludes with a Friday, July 17, afternoon graduation ceremony.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 33,000 students.