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After graduating in the spring, Fails will attend the University of Colorado Boulder Aerospace Engineering Sciences Program and hopes to eventually work for NASA.
"This class was a kind of the gateway for me to be like, 'yes, this is what I want to do,'" she said.
For Jake Marshall , who created and now teaches the class, this was exactly why he pushed the Thompson School District, where he first began teaching a design class at Lucile Erwin Middle School, to start an after-school aeronautics program eight years ago.
"A lot of kids head to college saying 'I want to go for the aerospace engineering program,' but they've never flown anything, they've never designed anything, they never built anything," he said while watching his students fly drones around the Innovation Center and produce three-dimensional digital models. "If I can provide these colleges with students that know how to fly, know FAA regulations, they're going to be able to jump right into the hard-core engineering where they are actually programming the drones to accomplish tasks like search-and-rescue missions, drone delivery systems or even flying for the military."
Today, after proving the concept of the course as an after-school program and later as a regular course, the aeronautics class at the Innovation Center has its own lab, several drones and its own runway.
"Are school districts introducing drone curriculum? Sure," Marshall said. "To the extent of what we're doing, where we have a certification piece at the end, a classroom specifically built for it and a flight field, I'd like to say we're the only one."