Tell us about yourself and your background.

I have been with the Academy of Model Aeronautics for almost 5 years now. When I started working here I didn’t know anything about model airplanes, but it has since taken over a lot of my free time.

Tell us about your company and your role there.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics is a non-profit community based organization for model aircraft. I work as the Coordinator of Educational Programs here. I am in charge of running our many camps. I also help head up our UAS4Stem Search and Rescue Challenge, as well as our scholarship program.

Industry Experience:

What drives your passion about the industry?  

Two things… the first is working with youth. I love working with kids who are just developing an interest in the hobby. They’ll attend a camp with hardly any experience and then I’ll see them a year or so later at an event and they will be completely enamored with the hobby. In the UAS4Stem contest I run I get to meet high school kids from all over the country who have never had any exposure to aviation. In a matter of weeks they are building their own quadcopter and learning about all of the great things drones can do recreationally and commercially. The second thing would be the passion of the other people in hobby. I love that you can go to a club field anywhere in the country and have a conversation with someone who is just as passionate about the flying as you are. The people within this industry are unlike any other. They are so friendly and always willing to help out someone who is new. In the last five years I have made friends all over the world who share a similar interest as I do.

Do you have a success story you would like to share?

I am very proud to have been a part of the AMA’s UAS4Stem Search and Rescue Challenge. We worked on a concept that students would work in teams, take a ground school, learn to build and fly and a drone, and then work together to program and fly it in a lost hiker scenario. The contests were held regionally with the winners moving on to compete in a national contest put on by the AMA. The first year we had 75 teams from all over the country compete. We never in our wildest dreams expected to get that much interest in the first year. It was so exciting to watch the teams work together and advance. I am really looking forward to the 2017 contest. Information on the contest can be found at

What excites you most about the potential for women and girls in the industry?

Honestly, I think the potential has always been there. Just the explosion of drone technology has really put it in the face of females. Getting girls interested in such an expanding industry is exciting. We need more girl engineers, and scientist, and pilots. I love that the opportunity for them to work with the technology is out there. Flying a model airplane or a drone is not considered just for the boys anymore. I love that!

What You’ve Learned:

What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry?

For me it was probably the first year that a girl applied to attend the week long summer camp that I run. Before that time it had been filled with all teenage boys. That girl came and fit right in because everyone had a common interest. It was like YES… girls can hold their own here. That girl is still coming back every summer. I love watching her talent and interest in aviation grow! She has a super bright future within the industry.

What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?

That model aviation could be so fun! Having no experience when I started with the AMA I didn’t know what to expect. I had been missing out and didn’t even know it!

Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you have something to contribute speak up! If you see another female out who seems afraid to join a group or unsure about speaking up… friend her!


What’s the best way for W&D readers to connect with you about the UAS4STEM program?

Jessy Symmes

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