Colleton County business, education and government leaders are trying to get children excited about potential future careers in aviation as that industry begins to take flight in the Lowcountry.
Last week, Colleton County Council, the Colleton County School District, USC Salkehatchie, the Hiram E. Mann Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Walterboro chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program and the Lowcountry Regional Airport came together with Boeing and the Charleston Joint Air and Naval Base to host a free three-day aviation camp for local children called Take Flight.
The camp gave 40 middle school students the opportunity to learn about the history of flight and the modern aerospace technology and aviation industry through presentations and visits to important sites in Walterboro and Charleston. Students also got the chance to fly in airplanes as part of the EAA’s Young Eagles program, in which they learned about piloting and flight mechanics.
Take Flight began on Wednesday at USC Salkehatchie, where children learned about the development of manned flight during the current and last centuries, from the Wright brothers to military usage to space flight and up to today. Children constructed a timeline of flight to help them better visualize the progression.
One day later, they toured the Boeing DreamLiner production facility in Charleston as part of Boeing’s DreamLearners program, which seeks to enhance 6th-8th grade student and teacher awareness of Boeing through hands-on learning and exposure to the company and the flight industry.
Saturday, the students visited the Lowcountry Regional Airport, where they viewed the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial. Students also learned about the Civil Air Patrol and ROTC involvement at the airport. Students ended the day by taking take rides in moving planes with the Young Eagles program.
On Thursday, students and the leaders from USC Salkehatchie, Colleton County Council and the school district traveled to Boeing to tour the facility, view the DreamLiners being built and attend presentations.
Students were then split into teams of engineers, mechanics, finance managers, pilots and materials managers and challenged to build a plane on a fake budget of $55,000. The goal was to build a plane that would fly the farthest without overspending or using the wrong materials. Winners were given Boeing posters with the Ravenel Bridge in background.
The campers visited Joint Base Charleton afterward, where they toured the facility and even got to explore the inside of a C-17 jump jet. Later they heard a presentation by retired Lt. Col. Robert C. “Bob” Hughes, who was a flight instructor at Tuskegee Army Airfield during WWII.
The Take Flight camp is the latest STEM-based (Science, Engineering, Technology, Mathematics) program offered to Colleton County children as part of an initiative to get school students career-ready in those fields either right out of high school, or to put them on the appropriate track for college.