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Gauteng pupils to learn STEM in aviation skills

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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Aerospace systems provider Honeywell has partnered with the US Space and Rocket Centre and the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to introduce an aviation science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skill development programme to local primary schools.

Over 400 fifth grade learners from five primary schools in Gauteng townships have been selected to participate in the Adventures in Aviation programme, a week-long interactive learning experience aimed at teaching the fundamentals of aviation science.

Launched on Friday at the SciBono Centre in Newtown, the initiative aims to introduce grade five learners to the laws of aviation to develop a passion for the industry and its numerous opportunities from an early age.

It is part of the GDE's initiative to twin well-resourced schools with historically poor ones, with a view to improve learning and teaching standards at the disadvantaged institutions.

The young participants will be taught science, mathematics, engineering and critical thinking skills. Honeywell will also fund scholarships for five teachers to attend the 2019 International Space Academy Educators (SAE) programme at the US Space & Rocket Centre.

"We are very pleased to work with Honeywell and the US Space and Rocket Centre in bringing the Adventures in Aviation programme to Gauteng," said Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng education MEC, speaking at the launch.

"The programme aligns well with our strategy for schools of specialisation, particularly those with a focus on aviation and science, technology, engineering and maths. In addition, we seek to expand our classroom activities to more project-based learning in the future. We are eager to leverage programmes such as these to help create a sound intellectual foundation in our learners that will help them develop their inquisitive and creative minds."

Each school will be provided with outreach kits developed by Honeywell and the US Space and Rocket Centre, which includes hours of interactive aviation lessons that will challenge students intellectually and stimulate their interest in aerospace careers.

"The mission of the National Aerospace Centre is to promote greater innovation and skills development in line with the needs of the South African aerospace industry," says Phillip Haupt, director of the National Aerospace Centre, based at the University of the Witwatersrand.

"The aerospace sector in SA continues to grow at a steady rate, which necessitates that we introduce young people to exciting career opportunities in aviation, serving to ensure we provide a generation of enthusiastic young engineers to maintain this growth path. This programme therefore aligns itself with those aims perfectly, further reinforcing our mission to enthuse young learners with the fundamentals of aviation."

The teachers' SAE programme, culminating next year, will provide educators at the participating schools with tools to enable collaborative experiences that encourage creative thinking and personal inquiry, while imparting skills on the fundamentals of flight; from the forces that keep an aircraft in the air, to understanding Newton's laws of motion.

"At Honeywell, we know the importance of encouraging enthusiasm in aviation at an early age. It helps to nurture future generations of aerospace specialists and keep our industry growing," says Sean Smith, president of Africa at Honeywell.

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