Text Size

Students Get a Week With Hands on Airplanes
By: Kathy Barnstorff

Inspiring the next generation is a cornerstone of a lot of NASA's education efforts. One of the best ways to do that, experts say, is through a tried-and-true method: hands-on experience.

Two Newport News high school students spent part of their spring breaks getting their hands on, in and around NASA Langley's planes as part of the Research Services Directorate. The 18-year-olds, Daniel Webster and Keith Mills, spent four hours each morning in the hangar working with the maintenance crews of Langley's 10 aircraft, especially its newest – a former Coast Guard HU-25C Guardian jet.

Aviation Academy visitors.
Click to enlarge

Eighteen-year-olds Daniel Webster (left) and Keith Mills get hands-on experience in NASA Langley’s hangar during their spring break from high school. Credit: NASA/Rob White

"It's an amazing experience being here," said Webster. "I knew NASA had airplanes, but I didn't know exactly how many and what it did with them. Plus I have gotten to meet some cool aviation maintenance techs."

"It's been very interesting and informative," said Mills. "This is what I want to do when I get out of high school. Helping out here gives you an appreciation for the all the work involved."

Both plan to enter the Navy after graduation and become aviation specialists, one in avionics and the other in aviation maintenance. Webster and Mills are seniors at Denbigh High School's Aviation Academy, a specialized four-year program to prepare teen-agers for a career in engineering technology with an emphasis on aviation and computers.

They joined three other Aviation Academy students for the week at NASA Langley. Two of those three spent their time with the Engineering Directorate. One joined the Safety and Mission Assurance Office.

"The Aviation Academy is a one of a kind experience," said Mills. "It gives us life skills that few other schools in Newport News can give us. For example, there are three tracks – the electronics course, pilot course and aviation maintenance technician, which is what I want to be."

The students' week with NASA Langley was part of the Newport News Public School System "Spring Break: Make it Work!" program which "matches students with area businesses and organizations to provide the students with a mini-internship, job shadowing or other career activity during spring break, April 2 - 6, when students are out of school," according to a Newport News school system flyer.

Mills and Webster say they got the opportunity to come to NASA Langley, in part, because the Aviation Academy has a new head.

"Dr. (Aaron) Smith, our new curator, has reached out more to the local aviation community," said Webster. "He's trying to get us out there more."

Dale Bowser, the head of the Research Services Integration Branch and the chief of aircraft maintenance, said he was happy to host the young men for the week.

"It gives them a real world place to see what actually goes on in a hangar and all the planning that goes into getting planes ready to fly," Bowser said.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman