Participation in St. Vrain Valley School District’s increasingly popular aeronautics program has nearly doubled in the past year as students launch into careers in the cockpit or in mastering drone technology.
The 250 students enrolled in the program at the district’s Innovation Center gain conceptual and practical knowledge for careers in either pathway, Jake Marshall, aeronautics program coordinator, stated in a news release.
“The aeronautics program provides students with applicable learning opportunities,” Marshall stated. “A lot of students who participate have similar interests and these courses help them find their niche and gain confidence in real-world skills.”
Kalyssa Berringer is the first student in St. Vrain’s aeronautics program to pass and earn her pilot license at age 17, which is the earliest one can earn the achievement. Berringer — a senior at Erie High School — stated the coursework and resources available at the Innovation Center was key in earning her license.
“I am ahead of the game age-wise for pilots because my coursework through the aeronautics program has provided a solid foundation for my flight skills,” Berringer stated in the news release.
Students are eligible for the aeronautics program as soon as they are freshman, Marshall said in an email. They do not have to take an aptitude test to enroll in the program.
“We take whomever and introduce them to flight,” Marshall said. “No cost to the student to see if this is something for them.”
Students in the unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, pathway focus on the engineering of drones to be utilized in federal airspace and can earn Federal Aviation Administration certification, the new release states.
The pilot pathway, endorsed and supported by Aims Community College’s aviation program, focuses on ground training content needed to pass the FAA private pilot written exam, the news release states.
“With the support of qualified staff and industry flight instructors, student pilots can get a step ahead in the career field of becoming a commercial pilot,” according to the news release.
Berringer took Pilot Ground School 1 and 2 and had access to the flight simulator system at the Innovation Center, which was helpful for her to learn flight instruments, the news release states.
St. Vrain students in the aeronautics program designed a 12-by18-foot paper airplane after they saw a video on YouTube of an 8-by-12-foot paper airplane taking flight and decided they would build a larger one.
Josh Bishop, 15, a freshman at Skyline High School, designed the paper airplane when he was in eighth grade using computer aided-design software, according to the news release. Bishop has long had an interest in building and flying and the Innovation Center’s aerospace program allowed him to combine those interests.
“I can do anything I can dream of here,” Bishop stated in the news release. “It’s great.”
Sarah Ringoen, 14, at APEX Homeschool Program freshman, is the youngest student to pass the FAA unmanned aerial systems written test within the program, where she demonstrated mastery of subjects including FAA regulations, airspace, weather, regulations and aerodynamics, according to the news release.
Ringoen works on teams with the UAS Applications class at the Innovation Center to capture drone images of schools to develop up-to-date maps of traffic patterns, said school district spokeswoman Caroline Chutkow.