At DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, 18 kids huddled around and sat inside a few Cessna 172s as pilots from Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets Flying Club took them through pre-flight checklists.

The pre-flight run down was Thursday’s premiere event for the annual ASPIRE Aviation camp held at the DeKalb County airport this week. The camp mixed lessons on aviation science with hands-on experiences around the airport, all in an effort to pique the kids’ interest in aviation careers.

Campers aged 9 to 14 observed operations inside the Air Traffic Control tower earlier in the week, and Thursday featured a series of experiments showcasing how planes get their lift.

The Air Traffic Control visit was Olen Jones’ favorite.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

“They showed us what they did, and we got a nice view of the whole airport,’ said Jones, 13, from Chamblee.

The camp is organized by The Inspire Aviation Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization working to advance education in aviation, in part through the Georgia Air & Space Museum in Peachtree Corners. This week’s camp, which was the fourth ever, puts some of that curriculum into a week of instruction.

Pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers are in high demand with looming retirements and consumer and business demand for travel.

The International Civil Aviation Organization predicts airlines will need 25,000 more commercial aircraft in the next two decades. That amounts to nearly 1 million new pilots and aircraft technicians by 2026, according to a news release.

“It’s important that we get them passionate and interested in these type of disciplines at a young age,” said Moreno Aguiari, president of Georgia Air & Space Museum’s board of directors.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Some of the camp’s science lessons taught the basics of aerodynamics and how an airplane engine works. The experiments from Thursday showcased Bernoulli’s Principle, which explains how airplanes lift. Faster moving air rushing over the wing creates lower pressure, so the higher pressure area under the wing lifts the plane.

One experiment station was set up in a hangar. Surrounded by about a dozen aircraft, campers lifted a ping-pong ball up with an air pump, showing how it floats with the rush of air under it.

“My favorite part is seeing a student go from not understanding a concept, to grasping it and understanding the application,” said camp leader Latessa Meader. “The excitement on their face is the best.”

Meader is also on the Georgia Air & Space Museum’s board of directors and has developed much of ASPIRE’s curricula. Meader has background in aerospace engineering and piloting in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. The campers peppered Meader with great questions throughout the week, she said.

The organization’s mission to increase interest in aviation is already working on some campers. Jones, the camper from Chamblee, came in with some interest in the topic. But after a week of learning and making friends at the ASPIRE camp, that interest isn’t the same.

“I’ve been interested in aviation my whole life, but this has probably boosted that,” Jones said. “You know, I just really enjoy it.”

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

ASPIRE Aviation Camp Photos
The annual ASPIRE Aviation camp held at the DeKalb County airport.