While 2020 might not be going the way we all hoped, Airway Science for Kids, a 501(c)(3), is on an exciting new vector in aviation engagement for Oregon’s underserved youth.

Airway Science for Kids (ASK) was founded in 1992 by Bob Strickland, a leader in Portland’s Black community who saw aeronautics as a tool to capture the imaginations of youth at critical ages, when transitions either help build futures or close doors. ASK is committed to continuing Mr. Strickland’s legacy for the underserved students in our community through quality, inquiry-based STEM experiences.

Over the years, Mr. Strickland’s vision expanded to include our legacy programs: DroneFlight: Students explore flight through drones, learn the basics of building and coding drones, and design their own drones with 3D printing in our “Flaps” Berry Drone program, named in honor of a local hero and one of the Tuskegee Airmen.

TakeFlight: elementary students discover the wonders of flight through project-based exploration

InFlight: middle school students take a deeper look at aviation, beginning with the principles of flight and then apply these concepts on flight simulators

TeenFlight: teens work with mentors to build a VAN’s RV-12 two-seater airplane over the course of two years

In January of this extraordinary year, ASK sought to revitalize their programs and launch toward new directions. Julia Cannell was brought in as Executive Director, a position perfect for her unique qualifications. She grew up around planes, earned her pilot’s license at 17, and holds two Master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle in business and equity, including thesis work on partnering with Aerospace Companies to increase diversity and inclusion in their organizations. Her extensive experience in public service includes work as a foster parent and a Foster/Adopt PreService Trainer for the State of Washington.

Next to join the team was Education Director Cyra Sadowl, a veteran educator with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a passionate belief in guiding students toward the support and resources they need to find their paths in life. Her work includes multi-age education, integrated and differentiated learning, and project-based program development. While most of her experience is in urban Title I schools, she has mentored distance learners in individualized rural programs.

Before COVID changed the world of education, ASK was already developing a badge program adaptable for in-person and virtual learning. Each badge focuses on a different strand of aerospace: flight, drones, the universe, airplane design and mechanics, space travel, and robotics. Each badge module, with six-one-hour explorations, is designed to include everything a student needs to participate. In addition, all our programming will be live-streamed in collaboration with local out-of-school organizations.

As quarantine regulations shift, ASK is preparing our building for socially distanced, in-person programs as well. Formerly a charter school, a cornerstone in the heart of the historically Black community of NE Portland, it had been sadly neglected as gentrification hit the block. Along with local contractors, artists, and community leaders, the ASK team is bringing life back into the old building and preparing programs to engage local youth, families, teachers, and to support other programs in our community.

ASK might be taxiing the runway today, but their eyes are on the skies with education and career pathways for all in aviation.

Article and images submitted by Cyra Sadowl
For more information visit the website:  Airway Science For Kids, Inc.

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