Best HBA project to teach aero industry skills to HS students?


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Sep 23, 2018
Spring, TX
I am looking for the best amateur-built aircraft option that will provide high school students the opportunity to use aero industry manufacturing techniques. Because these are high school students with no experience, I need a project that small groups of students (groups of 2-4) can make a meaningful contributions to in the span of a semester class. The project also needs to come from a company that is very friendly and helpful. Here are some details with two specific questions below.

1) Give students excitement about working in the aero industry.
2) Give them confidence that they have the ability to work in the aero industry.
3) Give them some skills and experiences to help them be employable in the aero industry.

Desired skills/experiences
(that I'd like my students to come away with):
1) AutoCAD experience drawing simple parts.
2) CNC experience cutting out parts (aluminum, carbon, plywood, ???) with plasma, route or laser CNCs)
3) 3-d printing experience fabricating misc. parts.
4) Experience on modern engines and components (glass cockpit components, Rotax 912, turboprop, jet, ???)
5) Experience with modern construction techniques (carbon and fiberglass composites, ???)

Project Limitations:
1) Students need take very small steps. On average, the kids can do in a week what it would take you 15 minutes.
2) Students need to see progress. Despite limitation 1, the project needs to have some momentum, so I'm automatically thinking a kit, but... ???
3) Needs to be "cool". The better this thing looks on a poster, the more enthusiasm it will gain.
4) Company (if a kit is involved) will need to field an above-average number of questions and assistance from students.

1) What other skills/experiences should a high school graduate get to be better suited to enter the aero technical field or continuing with post secondary education (i.e. aero engineering).
2) In your opinion, what aircraft project will suit itself to this effort?
If we were in NM, we would be happy to assist!

Turd Ferguson

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2008
Upper midwest in a house
I want to hear how any of you intend to convince any high school to finance your pet project full size airplane. (This should be rich :) ) I'll pretend I'm the high school principal with a budget spread razor thin that has to be approved by a very critical hen and judgemental school board - ready, set go!*
When my son was in 11th grade at a country hillbilly school, (roughly 45 graduates per yr), an anonymous donor handed over 2.5 million dollars with the stipulation that it be used to advance the skilled trades. This is not unusual. The school board was so busy sucking up to the donor they didn't have time to judge anything.

Then there are high schools that do nothing but focus on aviation (see link below). This one is funded by the DeVos family. You may have heard of them, Betsy Devos is the US Secretary for the Dept. of Education. Yes, the current Secretary of Education is from an aviation family. They also happen to own the Amway Corp.

I'd be pulling out all the stops to get aviation into schools right now because the climate will never be this good again.



Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Jan 1, 2013
Back in the old, old days when I was in high school, they just had a shop class for boys in the FFA ( Future Farmers of America ) and no one else. Heck, I grew up on a farm and helped work 100 acre hillside farm with a team of horses and grew or killed everything we ate. Why would I want to study everything I had been during since I was 6 years old. For me at the time, if I could have went to a trade school of some type in high school, it would like going to heaven. School in aviation, beyond my dreams. HS was so boring, except for history and math that I liked.


Log Member
Dec 21, 2018
Las Cruces, NM
Update on the aerospace project: I gave heed to much of the conversations above, and decided to submit two options on out grant. One will be a full kit by Rans: RV-12is. Our local EEA rep let me tag along on a local RV-12 build that was about 85% complete. Seemed like a great option for students to experience a project without getting too bogged down. Second option is the Zenith 750 which can be built from plans with lots of CAD work to build files to cut out parts on the CNC machine. This is the less expensive option. The final draft is submitted today and Ill let you all know how it goes in about a month.

Thank you for your insight and expertise! -TheMaj