Scouts Soar: STEM Event Inspires Future Aviators

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys
  • Air Force Test Center

Against the backdrop of the Tehachapi Mountains, Boy Scouts from Tehachapi and Edwards Air Force Base, Troops 3 and 247, converged at Skylark North Glider School for an unforgettable journey into the world of flight, on April 27.

Amidst the tranquil beauty of Tehachapi's landscape, the skies came alive with the promise of discovery and adventure. For the Boy Scouts, this excursion represented more than just a day of learning—it was an opportunity to unlock the secrets of flight under the guidance of seasoned aviators and passionate mentors.

"We call it a glider event because the kids come out and learn about flying qualities, the control surfaces of the aircraft, and how to maneuver the aircraft, and then get to go out and fly and experience it themselves," explained Helida Vanhoy, 412th STEM outreach coordinator. 

By igniting a passion for aviation and engineering at an early age, the collaboration between AFTC pilots, the 412th Test Wing STEM outreach coordinator, and the Boy Scouts laid the groundwork for a future generation of Air Force pilots and aerospace engineers.

“All of the groups that have been coming are groups that either have an engineering or aviation cohort at their high school or come from groups like the Boy Scouts who are working on their aviation merit badges," she elaborated. 

By engaging students who are already immersed in these fields or who aspire to pursue careers in aviation and engineering, the program effectively cultivates a deeper appreciation and understanding of aerospace concepts.

For many Boy Scouts, this experience catalyzed their aspirations to pursue careers in the aerospace industry. 

Moreover, by exposing students to the expertise and mentorship of AFTC pilots, the collaboration offers invaluable insights into the life of an Air Force pilot. From the rigorous training to the exhilarating challenges of flight testing, students gain a firsthand understanding of the dedication, skill, and determination required to succeed in this demanding profession.

“It was outstanding to be able to support the STEM Outreach Program and have the opportunity to fly and interact with the students,” said Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, AFTC commander, who volunteered his time alongside U.S. Test Pilot School’s Technical Director David Vanhoy to pilot the gliders. “Hopefully, the flights and discussions will help inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.”

Max Tarikas, Boy Scout Troop 247, expressed his enjoyment of the flight experience, particularly relishing the opportunity to pilot the glider himself for approximately five minutes out of the fifteen-minute flight. Although he had no specific expectations, he found the experience thrilling and compared the feeling to that of controlling a robot. Max is working towards his aviation merit badge, and the flight experience contributes to his understanding of the basic components of aircraft. While he does not currently have plans for an aviation career, he acknowledges that the experience may influence his future aspirations.

The Glider Event is just one of three programs set up by the 412th’s STEM outreach coordinator. She also puts together an engineering cohort that utilizes AFTC engineers and facilitates Glide-On-Campus Events.

During the engineering cohort, engineers engage students in a comprehensive exploration of flight data gathered during glider flights. Utilizing tools such as MATLAB on their phones and GoPros, students capture data that serves as a window into the dynamics of flight.

Through immersive experiences and hands-on activities, students are not only introduced to the principles of flight and aircraft design but are also encouraged to explore their interests and talents within these fields. Whether it's building model aircraft, analyzing flight data, or piloting gliders, every interaction fosters a sense of curiosity and excitement that fuels their passion for aviation and engineering.

At the Glider On-Campus Event, a United States Test Pilot School glider is positioned amid school grounds, igniting a week-long aviation adventure where students across subjects delve into aviation-themed lessons. English classes write about famous pilots, history lessons explore aviation milestones, and math equations take flight. Culminating with a visit to the glider setup, students engage with aviation experts, learning about control surfaces and aerodynamics. Guided by educators like Kathleen Ferdette, students fill out informative worksheets, solidifying their understanding of flight principles. 

Beyond the thrill of soaring through the skies, these events embody the spirit of community and collaboration that defines the aerospace industry. By bringing together students from diverse backgrounds and fostering a culture of inclusivity and excellence, AFTC pilots and the 412th STEM outreach coordinator are paving the way for a future where the sky is truly the limit.

For more information, to coordinate an event, or to explore the plethora of engineering scholarships available, visit