Aviation Educator, Greenville Technical Charter School
Doug Adomatis teaches courses in science aviation at Greenville Technical Charter High School (GTCHS) using the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. GTCHS was the first school in South Carolina to adopt the Foundation’s program in 2018. Graduates of the four-year program have gone on to become pilots, aerospace engineers, and aircraft mechanics. Doug works with other high schools and the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission to host the state's first simulated flight competition. He is also an AOPA Foundation High School Teacher Flight Training Scholarship recipient.
Faculty Member, River Valley High School
Paul Beineke graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a degree in astronautical engineering. During his 29-year Air Force career, he accumulated 4,450 hours of flight time, primarily in the F-16, T-38, and T-6, retiring as a colonel. His major responsibilities included NORAD inspector general, Air Force safety issues division chief at the Pentagon, and command of an expeditionary air wing in the Middle East. Today, he manages his family farm, is an active flight instructor, operates a drone agricultural spraying operation, and teaches aviation careers at the local high school in Caledonia, Ohio using the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum.
Aviation and Drone Instructor, Okmulgee High School
Scott Bevan teaches the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum at Okmulgee High School, where the focus is on teaching students to fly drones, planes, and 3D modeling in the aviation industry. A 14-year classroom veteran, Scott is certified in career tech, special education, physical education, and science. In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Scott coaches football and runs the TSA organization at Okmulgee.
National Aviation and Space Education (AVSED) Program Manager, Federal Aviation Administration
James (Jim) Brough was an educator for 21 years before joining the FAA in 2008. Jim provides national leadership to prepare students to enter the aerospace industry workforce. Jim is also a private pilot and aircraft owner, which brings a unique perspective to his work. He has received recognition and numerous awards for his aerospace education initiatives, including the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical Award and an Excellence in Education Award from the state of New Hampshire. In 2001, Jim was inducted into the New Hampshire Teacher's Hall of Fame.
Teacher, Frankford High School
Joshua Bergerson is the aviation teacher at Frankford High School, a public neighborhood high school in Philadelphia. The Aviation Academy at the high school offers students the opportunity to earn a private pilot certificate before they graduate through an innovative partnership with Tailwinds, a local flight school. To date, five students have started flight training, and one has earned a Part 107 commercial drone certificate in this new program. Joshua has 13 years' experience in STEM education and has taught the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM curriculum for four years. He holds an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction and is working on his Ed.D. in K-12 educational leadership, focusing on increasing positive STEM outcomes for students from historically underrepresented groups.
Supervisor, Career and Technical Education, Hereford High School
Robin Bowden is a supervisor of career and technical education (CTE) for Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). In this role, she manages curriculum and instructional design, development, implementation, evaluation, and teacher preparation for the district's aviation, engineering, architecture, construction management, manufacturing, and robotics programs. Aviation technology is one of 40 CTE pathway offerings in BCPS designed to prepare students for careers and life-long learning aligned with changing workforce needs. Thanks to a partnership with AOPA, the BCPS Aviation Technology program is in its fourth year of implementation, offering both the private pilot and unmanned systems pathways.
Executive Director Aerospace Center for Excellence
Eric Crump is the executive director for the Aerospace Center for Excellence in Lakeland, Florida. Eric previously served as aerospace program director for the Polk State College aerospace program, which he helped start in 2012. He has been flying since the age of 13 and has previously worked as a corporate pilot, flight training program curriculum developer, technical publications content editor, and chief instructor for various training organizations. Today, Eric focuses his efforts on building and developing education and career pathways for young people in the aviation and aerospace industries.
Kevin S. Doyle, Ed.D.
District Supervisor of Science, Morris Hills Regional District
Kevin Doyle, Ed.D., is the district science Supervisor for the Morris Hills Regional District. He also serves as the Math and Science Magnet Program coordinator and the Aviation and Aerospace Program coordinator. He has 29 years’ experience in high school education. His school district is the first in New Jersey to offer a four-year aviation program using the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. He is the Chairperson of the Safety Advisory Committee for the National Science Teachers Association, a Science Safety Presenter, and an author.
STEAM Director and Aviation Teacher, Ada City Schools
Chris Eckler is the STEAM director and aviation teacher in the Ada City Schools in Ada, Oklahoma. Ada City Schools is one of the few schools with the distinction of having field-tested all six courses in the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum beginning in 2016. Ada has since had alumni attend all state aviation colleges and the United States Air Force Academy. Under Chris' leadership, Ada was recently named one of five Oklahoma Aviation Centers of Excellence by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. While teaching the AOPA Foundation Curriculum, Chris earned his private pilot certificate and Part 107 commercial drone certification.
James H. Glass
Instructor, CFI/II, Eastern Kentucky University
James Glass began flying at 17 and earned his private pilot certificate at 18. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 12 years as an air traffic controller and instructor. After receiving a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, James was an aviation weather observer and forecaster and later a meteorologist. He served as a gunnery sergeant, chief warrant officer, and retired in 2013 as a major. He now teaches aviation at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). James led a joint EKU and Appalachian Regional Commission initiative to place virtual reality flight simulators in Kentucky high schools and community colleges.
iSTEAM Coordinator, Fordham Preparatory School
Dr. Raymond Gonzalez is a recipient of the AOPA Foundation High School Teacher Flight Training Scholarship. He is currently the coordinator of the iSTEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics through an Ignatian perspective) program at the Fordham Preparatory School in The Bronx, New York. He teaches the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum and runs a successful aviation club. Raymond is preparing for his first solo.
Aviation Teacher Roxbury High School
Mike Gottfried is an Earth science, physics, and aviation teacher at Roxbury High School in Succasunna, New Jersey. Having just completed his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, he is now pursuing his private pilot certificate. Mike currently leads Roxbury's aviation program where he teaches the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum and is the co-advisor of the new aviation club. During his free time, he leads Rox-THON, an organization committed to fighting pediatric cancer by hosting an overnight dance marathon. Mike also enjoys traveling, with plans to visit all seven continents.
Senior Manager, Curriculum Development, AOPA Foundation
Michael Hangartner is part of the team that develops the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. Michael holds a bachelor's degree in business economics, master's degrees in business administration and integrated marketing communications. Since joining AOPA in 2014, he has served in various roles, including financial analyst, research analyst, and manager of the flying club Initiative. Michael has been flying since 2011 and is an instrument-rated commercial pilot who enjoys flying both airplanes and helicopters and is a certified Remote Pilot and Advanced Ground Instructor.
Aviation and Engineering Program Consultant, Office of Career and Technical Education, Kentucky Department of Education
Mark Harrell is the aviation and engineering consultant with the Office of Career and Technical Education at the Kentucky Department of Education. Mark graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor's degree in technology education, and his mission is to prepare K-12 students for the STEM workforce. Mark started his career teaching STEM students at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky. The opportunity arose to teach at Franklin County Career and Tech Center, and he built one of the top engineering pathways in the state. Mark has a master's degree in career and technical education administration from Eastern Kentucky University.
Cindy L. Hasselbring
K-12 Education Advisor, Next Gen STEM Office of STEM Engagement, NASA Headquarters
Cindy Hasselbring serves as K-12 education advisor for next gen STEM in NASA's Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM). Previously, she served as assistant director for STEM education at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. While working at AOPA, Cindy led efforts to build a four-year high school aviation STEM curriculum. Cindy led STEM initiatives at the Maryland State Department of Education and was an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation. Cindy was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at Milan High School in Michigan.
Capt. Joseph Houston
AC-130 Navigator/Combat Systems Officer United States Air Force
Capt. Joseph (Joe) Houston is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy where he was a member of the Formula SAE Collegiate Design Series Racecar team. He graduated with a degree in general engineering and served as a combat systems officer on AC-130U and AC-130W gunships for six years. He is currently awaiting pilot training at Columbus AFB. Joe earned his private pilot certificate through Civil Air Patrol at the age of 16.
Director, Central Florida Aerospace Academy-Winter Haven
Brian Hughes has been the director of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy-Winter Haven since its inception in 2019. During this time, the academy has used the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum and now offers all four grade-level courses. Brian earned his private pilot certificate in 2020 as a demonstration of commitment to his students. He knew that in order to teach them correctly, he had to have the experience of the left seat.
Part 141 Chief Instructor and Flight Simulation Specialist, Gleim Aviation
Ryan Jeff, a flight instructor, advanced ground instructor, instrument instructor, and remote pilot, graduated summa cum laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a bachelor's degree in aeronautics and a minor in applied meteorology. He began as an aviation research assistant at Gleim, and through his experience working with the Federal Aviation Administration, industry experts, and flight schools, he eventually became Gleim's Part 141 chief instructor and flight simulation specialist. Originally from Singapore, Ryan has lived in seven different countries while pursuing his passion for aviation and is eager to share this passion with future pilots.
Kristian T. Johnson
Aviation Pathway Lead, Corona High School STEM Academy
Kristian (Kris) Johnson is the pathway lead for the aviation program at the Corona High School STEM Academy in Corona, California. He has loved aviation since attending his first air show as a kid. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and began his career in aviation as an aircraft maintainer for RC-135s and the AWACS. After eight years working on airplanes, Kris changed careers, earning a B.A. in Mathematics in 2004 and beginning his new career as a teacher. By 2009, Kris had branched out to teach engineering and aerospace courses. In 2018, Corona High School STEM academy added the aviation pathway using the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum.
Aerospace and Aviation Education Coordinator, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission
Paula Kedy currently serves as the aerospace and aviation education coordinator for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. Paula works to promote aviation education across Oklahoma using the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. The Commission received the Most Innovative State Program Award from the National Association of State Aviation Officials for implementing aviation education in more than 50 Oklahoma high schools. Paula serves on the AOPA Foundation High School Steering Committee. She has helped develop five Oklahoma Aviation High Schools of Excellence through the implementation of an FAA Workforce Development Grant and is committed to ensuring equitable aviation STEM opportunities for Oklahoma students.
District Career and Technical Education Director and High School Assistant Principal, Tullahoma City Schools
Jessie Kinsey joined the field of education as a school counselor, where she served students for more than 10 years in grades PreK-12. For three years, she served as director of schools in Grundy County, Tennessee. In 2021, Jessie was selected as the assistant principal of Tullahoma High School and the Tullahoma City Schools director for career and technical education. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Maryville College and a master's degree in social work from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Driven by her passion for students, Jessie’s current focus is on preparing students not only for college but for career readiness as well.
Senior Vice President, Sporty’s
As Sporty’s lead aviation course and video producer, Bret is usually flying an interesting airplane, and often with a camera rolling. He oversees the development, production, and distribution of more than 30 aviation courses from Sporty's, including the Private Pilot Learn to Fly Course. He is a check airman at the Sporty's Academy flight school and flies professionally as a captain on a Cessna Citation.
Young Eagles Program Manager, Experimental Aircraft Association
David Leiting has been on staff with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) for seven years and is the manager of the Young Eagles and Eagle Flights programs. Previously, he led the development of the Ray Aviation Scholarship program, which awards $1.5 million in flight training annually. David has attended AirVenture Oshkosh since he was six months old. He has held various EAA chapter leadership roles, including president and Young Eagles coordinator of EAA 1342, comprised entirely of University of North Dakota students. He is an active private pilot in his local flying club.
Executive Director, Aircraft Technician Education Council
Crystal Maguire oversees strategic initiatives for the Aircraft Technician Education Council (ATEC), the trade association representing FAA-certified aviation maintenance technician schools. She also serves as executive director of Choose Aerospace, a charitable organization that promotes careers in aviation maintenance through the development of high school aviation maintenance programs. Crystal also serves as the vice president of operations for the Aerospace Maintenance Council, a nonprofit that puts on the annual Aerospace Maintenance Competition and serves as Of Counsel for Denver-based firm Davis Graham & Stubbs. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Tulsa and a law degree from American University, Washington College of Law.
Susan Broderick Mallett
Aerospace/STEM Educator, Civil Air Patrol
Susan Mallett is a retired teacher, administrator, and university instructor of 31 years. Since 2006 she has served as the Educational Outreach programs coordinator at the Civil Air Patrol’s (CAP’s) national headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama. She works across the country with schools, museums, youth programs, and national aviation organizations to connect youth with aviation-related STEM products, programs, mentors, and career opportunities. Susan created CAP's K-12 STEM Kit program, which includes more than 20 free kits provided to over 2 million youth. She also created CAP's K-6 Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program.
AeroEducate Program Manager, Experimental Aircraft Association
Paul Maloy is the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA’s) program manager of the newly launched AeroEducate youth education initiative. With a master's degree in secondary education, he joined EAA this year after 16 years as a middle school U.S. history and speech and debate teacher. He also ran an after-school aviation club and was the youth education leader with EAA Chapter 23 in Salt Lake City. Paul loves working with kids of all ages. After 35 years of putting it on the back burner, Paul finally earned his private pilot certificate this year and currently owns a sweet 1960 Comanche 250.
Aviation, Career and Technical Education, and Math Instructor Har-Ber High School
Jason McMullen is an award-winning aviation and mathematics Instructor. He started the Har-Ber Aviation Club in 2017, which has grown in membership each year. Jason, who holds an M.Ed., helped Har-Ber High School become the first school in Arkansas to adopt the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum in 2020. Har-Ber High School, located in Springdale, became the first school outside of Washington, DC to host the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum S.H.E. Can STEAM Camp in 2022. Jason served as a camp counselor.
Technology Teacher Piedmont High School
Anthony Mellendorf is a second-year teacher at Piedmont High School in Piedmont, Oklahoma. Anthony has always had a passion for the aviation industry. He vividly remembers growing up watching the Blue Angels at air shows and wanting to be a military pilot. Unfortunately, that dream never came true. Anthony started flying drones about five years ago because, as a journalist and filmmaker, he wanted to take his filmmaking to another level. Because of his background, Anthony's high school asked him to teach the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum, and that dream of becoming a pilot is alive again.
Manager, Flying Clubs Initiative, AOPA Foundation
Drew Meyers is the manager of the Flying Clubs initiative at the AOPA Foundation, where he helps newly forming and existing flying clubs succeed all over the United States. Drew is an active member of the Free State Flying Club in College Park, Maryland. Aviation has been Drew's passion ever since he got a ride in a small plane to earn his aviation merit badge with the Boy Scouts during his first year in high school. Drew is an active instrument-rated commercial pilot and advanced ground instructor.
Aviation Director, Wyandotte School District 1
Dana Morisset has taught high school and middle school math for 18 years. She was a special education director for two years, and this is her first year as aviation director at Wyandotte School District 1 in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. Dana is a passionate, fun, energetic teacher—with high expectations—who loves what she does.
Executive Director, Austin Peay State University
Dr. Kristine Nakutis is a retired Army officer with more than 20 years of logistics experience and multiple combat tours. She currently serves as the executive director for Austin Peay State University's Fort Campbell campus. She also provides operational and logistics support to Austin Peay's aviation science program that offers a B.S. degree in Aviation Science with a concentration in Rotor Wing.
Business Development Leader, King Schools
Pamela Olson has experience in multiple aspects of the aviation industry, from hiring pilots for the airlines to dispatching at a flight school. For the past 20 years, Pamela has been a member of the King Schools' team. Over the past 47 years, King Schools has trained more than 1.5 million aviators worldwide. The clear, simple, and fun teaching style has King Schools' customers raving about their experience for years! Pamela spearheaded a collaboration with the AOPA Foundation’s You Can Fly program, developing a program that schools can use to take students to the next level by obtaining a private or commercial drone pilot certificate.
Director, High School Outreach, AOPA Foundation
Glenn Ponas is responsible for leading outreach efforts for the AOPA Foundation’s High School initiative, focusing on expanding the adoption and implementation of the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. Glenn has 31 years’ experience as a secondary teacher, aviation program founder, building and district-level administrator, and curriculum development specialist with the Pittsburgh Public Schools. He is an FAA-certificated private pilot and remote pilot. Glenn co-founded a Pittsburgh-based data visualization and geographic information system analysis company. He was also an educational data systems consultant at the state and federal levels.
Senior Advisor, AOPA Foundation
A graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, Katie became an airline pilot at the age of 21, flying the CRJ-200 for a regional carrier. When the airline went out of business, Katie was named director of communications for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. In 2012, Katie joined AOPA as the vice president of communications. She was later promoted to senior vice president for aviation strategy and programs, responsible for its You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute. Katie retired from AOPA in 2019, moving back to Montana to take over her family's 130-year-old cattle ranch. She continues in an advisory role to AOPA and operates her own consulting business, advising electric and hybrid electric aviation start-ups.
Chief Mechanic, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Jennifer Radtke is the first woman to serve as a chief mechanic for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. She helps engineers design products that prioritize mechanics' safety, work environment, and workload. Jennifer has 27 years of aviation industry experience, including as deputy program manager and lead of the 777X maintenance engineering team, and maintenance programs engineering lead for 737, 747, 767, KC-46, and 777X. Jennifer earned two bachelor's degrees in engineering technology and aeronautics and an associate’s degree in aircraft maintenance from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She earned her aviation maintenance technology degree and airframe and powerplant certificate from the Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology, and certification in model-based systems engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Senior Vice President, Strategic Operations, Flight Safety International
Kelly Reich's aviation experience started when he earned his private pilot certificate while in high school at the age of 17. He continued to work on his ratings while attending Wichita State University, where he graduated with a B.A. in Aviation Management. Kelly has worked in various senior leadership positions for Cessna Aircraft, Honda Aircraft, and is currently at FlightSafety International. He leads the development of courseware strategy and associated technologies, including 3D and virtual reality. Kelly's passion for aviation led him to become a multi-engine and instrument flight instructor and commercial glider pilot. He is also type-rated in the CitationJet.
Director of K-12 STEM Education, Redbird Flight Simulations
Greg Roark has developed aeronautics programming in private and public schools nationwide for more than 13 years. As a classroom teacher, he introduced some of the methodologies used in modern aeronautics programs, including integrating flight simulation into the classroom. At Redbird, Greg creates training and professional development courses and consults school districts on starting and expanding aeronautics programs. He has degrees in K-12 education and has been flying for more than 20 years. In his spare time, he is building a Velocity XL airplane.
1st Lt. Jonathan Rothe
Deputy Chief of Human Capital for the Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs, United States Air Force
1st Lt. Jonathan Rothe currently serves as the deputy chief of human capital for the Secretary of the Air Force international affairs at the Pentagon. Previously, he served as the director of operations for the Aim High Flight Academy at Randolph AFB. In this position, he was responsible for training students and staff during each academy. In addition, he served as the officer in charge of student flight for the 184th Wing at McConnell AFB in Kansas. In this role, he oversaw more than 75 members regarding preparation for basic military training.
Derek J. Rowe
High School Aviation Technology and Career and Technical Education Teacher, Tullahoma High School
Derek Rowe is a public high school aviation teacher and president of the High School Aviation Association, which he formed to support high school aviation programs nationwide. His recent specialty is the impact on the aviation industry post 9/11 and COVID, the changes, improvements, and challenges since then, and how high schools are placed to assist in recruiting and training highly skilled aviation STEM professionals. Derek turned around a failing aviation program at Metro Nashville Public Schools, turning it into one of the top 10 aviation programs in the United States. He now teaches Aviation Technology at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee, taking its students to even greater altitudes!
MD-11 Captain, FedEx Express
Jimmy Sanford is an MD-11 captain, basic indoctrination facilitator, and a pilot hiring team member for FedEx Express. He is responsible for the safe operation of his aircraft, shepherding new-hire pilots through their initial two weeks of training, and vetting future FedEx crew members in the pilot interview process. Jimmy joined FedEx in 1998, working on the Memphis ramp while attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Worldwide Campus and flying for a local corporation. Upon graduation, he flew with Chautauqua Airlines. He returned to FedEx in 2004 as a line pilot. Jimmy has also worked in the FedEx AirNav department supporting FedEx Charters by securing overflight and landing rights necessary in support of the U.S. military and deliveries of personal protective equipment back to the United States during COVID.
Aviation Teacher, East T STEM Academy
Ralph Schirlo has spent the past 18 years teaching in Memphis public schools. Before that, he completed a professional pilot course and was a flight instructor at Bolivar Aviation International School of Aeronautics. With more than 7,000 flight hours in a range of aircraft and time spent flying for FedEx, he is a knowledgeable and passionate aviation instructor who has been teaching the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum for the past five years. He takes great pleasure in seeing students excel in the field of aviation.
Peter and Lesley Schlesinger
Owners and Pilots, Flying Coyote Aerial Photography
Peter and Lesley Schlesinger are Part 107 drone pilots, owners, and operators of Flying Coyote Aerial Photography. Peter has been interested in remote control aircraft since the 1980s and holds an associate of applied science degree in Aviation Electronics. He also flies a drone for the city of Memphis engineering department in addition to other duties in the traffic engineering department. Lesley is new to the drone community and recently received her Part 107 certificate. Lesley holds a B.A. in Political Science from Pacific Lutheran University and currently works at International Paper as the North America sales manager for global cellulose fibers.
J. Anthony Sharp
Aviation Educator, Retired
J. Anthony Sharp, Ed.D., also referred to as the dean of Black aviation education, is a consultant and retired college professor. From the start of his career, he has been interested in increasing diversity in aviation. During his career, Anthony established flight training programs at three Historically Black Colleges and Universities, an achievement that has no comparison. Those flight programs are located at Hampton University, Florida Memorial University, and Elizabeth City State University. He is a founding board director of a STEM school with an aviation emphasis and a board of trustee for a community college with an aviation program.
Resource Teacher and Aviation Program Director Colonel, Zadok Magruder High School
Michael Smith has taught middle and high school for the past 22 years. For the first 18 years of his career, he taught PLTW engineering classes. Most recently, Michael taught the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum at Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland. He is a sponsor of multiple school clubs and honor societies. Outside of school, Michael is a coach for two of his children's sports teams and their taxi driver for other sports. His family loves to travel and spend time at the beach.
Senior Vice President, AOPA Foundation and You Can Fly
As Senior Vice President of the AOPA Foundation and You Can Fly, Elizabeth Tennyson is responsible for the philanthropic arm of AOPA as well as programs designed to get people flying and keep them flying, including initiatives aimed at introducing high school students to aviation careers. Elizabeth joined AOPA in 1998 and has held positions that included executive editor of Pilot magazine, vice president of publications, and vice president of aviation program operations. She is an instrument-rated private pilot and co-owns a Bonanza.
Lead Unmanned Aircraft systems Instructor, FlightSafety International
Michael Uleski has had a passion for aviation since flying balsa wood gliders as a child. He began flying crewed aircraft at 17 and attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, earning a degree in aeronautical sciences and a commercial pilot certificate. He started his own unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) services company in 2014, cross-trained as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, and EMT, and developed his agency's UAS unit that began operations in 2015. In 2016, he began working as the chief public safety instructor for UAS and joined FlightSafety International in 2019 to develop and instruct courses related to UAS operations.
Director of Development, STEM Flights
Carley Walker is passionate about helping young people discover STEM and aviation career pathways. As the director of development for STEM Flights, a national nonprofit providing flight experiences to middle and high schoolers, Carley connects educators and students with volunteer pilot mentors in communities throughout the United States. She believes that getting students onto the flight deck can be life-changing, and her goal is to have a pilot mentor at every airport in the country.
Co-Owner and Vice President, True Course Simulations
Brett Watts is the co-owner and vice president of True Course Simulations, a virtual reality courseware and hardware provider to some of the largest flight training organizations in the world. His experience includes more than 10 years in commercial aircraft program marketing and as a space operations officer for the U.S. Air Force. Brett is also a Ph.D. candidate and faculty member at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Deputy Director of Aerospace Education, Civil Air Patrol
Marianne Weiss is the deputy director of aerospace education for the Civil Air Patrol. Previously, she worked as an executive for Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, developing programs for youth ages 6 to 25. Marianne is also a licensed commercial pilot with an instrument rating. She is passionate about introducing youth to aviation, and in 2009 she was awarded the Hometown Hero award from the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds team for her work in organizing aviation related activities for underserved youth. Marianne holds a master’s degree in business administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s degree in social work from Florida International University.
2nd Lt. Ashton Wright
Gold Bar Diversity Recruiter, United States Air Force
2nd Lt. Ashton Wright is a recruiter who went to school at Kent State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics. He was an active member of AOPA and an avid user of its student pilot resources during his training classes. As a gold bar diversity recruiter for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) at the 347th Recruiting Squadron, he is responsible for the recruitment of qualified, motivated, and diverse students for the AFROTC High School Scholarship Program, as well as performing general outreach at various schools and public events. His area of responsibility spans 89,000 square miles and includes the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Director, Curriculum Development, AOPA Foundation
Erik Yates has 25 years of education experience as a STEM supervisor, technology curriculum coordinator, teacher trainer, and classroom teacher from elementary school through high school physics. As the program director for the Global Learning nonprofit organization in New Jersey, Erik designed and delivered STEAM training for teachers. He has inspired his students with aviation-themed lessons while teaching in places as diverse as Tianjin, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Chatham, New Jersey. A 3,500-hour airline transport pilot, Erik earned his private pilot, flight instructor and multi-engine instructor credentials in high school and college before flight instructing full time and completing his master's degree in education.