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USF Professors to create curriculum for aerospace academy

USF Tampa and Polytechnic professors were chosen to create curriculum for a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funded aerospace academy in Lakeland.

NASA awarded the Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA) $1.4 million to improve the curriculum and enhance the academy’s facility, which prepares students for a career in aviation, said Polk County Public School officials.

The CFAA is an extension of Kathleen High School that offers education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to middle and high school students.

“We hope to find the next generation of technicians and engineers with this program,” said USF Polytechnic Director of Engineering Frank Young. “The classes are very similar to ones in the average high school, but they also show how lessons in math and science can be applied outside of the laboratory and eventually develop into a career.”

Gerry Meisels, director of the Coalition for Science Literacy at USF Tampa said he and Young will team up with FCAA faculty members and outside experts, such as former astronauts, to develop the curriculum.

They will construct six courses and determine how the courses should be taught, Meisels said.

“A big part of getting students to learn science in general is getting them engaged and interested,” he said. “You can illustrate fundamental principles like momentum and energy using some real life examples — in this case aerospace.”

Meisels said he anticipates that the new curriculum will be implemented next spring.  

“It is very important that the academy not only continues to improve on the curriculum, but also improve on the way it’s taught,” Young said.

The FCAA, which is located at Sun N’ Fun, Florida’s official aviation museum and education center, will be adding new buildings to the facility using part of the grant money they received from NASA, Meisel said.

Out of the $11.5 million in grants NASA awarded this year, Polk County received the largest amount nationwide, Young said.

These grants are aimed at drawing students to career fields in science and technology and providing sound education that will motivate them to further their skills, he said.