Aeronautics program takes flight with fourth annual ACE Academy

Andrew Hampp

School of Technology Dean Raj Chowdhury had a message for the graduates of the fourth annual Aviation Career Education Academy last Friday.

“Tech nerds are good for our society!” Chowdhury exclaimed.

Chowdhury’s outburst was part of an address to the group of 19 high school students from Northeast Ohio and West Virginia who participated in this year’s ACE Academy field camp. The program lasted five days and included trips to the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, the Akron-Canton Airport and the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The first ACE Academy was held in 2001 after being brought to Kent State by Isaac Nettey, senior academic program director for the School of Technology’s aeronautics division. Nettey organized ACE Academies for eight years at Texas Southern University before transferring to Ohio.

Although the program is partially financed by the School of Technology, Nettey said the ACE Academy is not designed to promote Kent State specifically. The university’s Flight Training Program became the first aviation program in Ohio in 1917, as founded by Dr. Andrew Patton.

“It’s more of an outreach program than anything,” Nettey said. “It exposes more boys and girls to the career opportunities they have in the aviation field.”

Supervising this year’s ACE Academy were Kent Roosevelt High School math teachers Debbie Duffy and Matt Hunkele. This was Hunkele’s third year of being involved with the ACE Academy and the first for Duffy, who filled in for Women With Wings’ Sue Lyons.

“It’s amazing to me, when I reflect on these past five days, how much we did,” Duffy said during the graduation ceremony.

One activity the students were unable to participate in during the ACE Academy’s regular schedule was flying a plane by themselves. Because of rain, the original flight day had to be pushed back, so only 14 of the 19 students were able to meet at the Kent State Airport for individual 20-minute flight sessions.

Kyle Westhafer, a junior at Green High School, said the flight session was his favorite part of the ACE Academy.

“I enjoyed it,” said Westhafer, who steered a plane for the first time last week. “It’s a lot different from driving because there’s no ground beneath you.”

As for any first flight jitters, Westhafer said his nerves calmed down quickly.

“I was scared for the first minute, maybe,” he said.

Contact technology reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected].