INSPIRATION IN A PANDEMIC - Why Completing Project SkyLab is a Mission of Hope

Once completed, SkyLab will be a gathering hub of emerging technologies built on a solid foundation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Although its construction has been delayed due to the impact of COVID-19, the national interest and exposure to STEM education that SkyLab will generate, will be the catalyst that leads us out of this situation, the next, and the next after that. Future aerospace professionals will be more equipped to adapt their talents quickly to best meet the challenges of the next global pandemic because of their training at our SkyLab facility.

System thinking drives the aviation industry. During the pandemic, our world needed scientists and engineers. The aerospace industry mastered the art of the pivot during the crisis. SpaceX, Blue Origin, Textron, American Airlines and other aerospace manufacturers produced facial shields and donated personal protective equipment to front line workers. Aviation companies designed 3-D printed medical grade respirators, produced hand sanitizer, and played a vital role in fighting the corona virus battle. Airflow and fluid dynamics, center pieces of aviation engineering, are playing crucial roles in health and safety issues. Aerospace engineers are fundamentally system engineers. Aviation mechanics are fundamentally mechanics – problem solvers. ACE nurtures these interests from Pre-K through college.

Why Project SkyLab?

ACE programs are literally exploding at the seams and we need to GROW! Through Project SkyLab, ACE will build more classroom space for both formal and informal STEM learning and museum programs while also leveraging partnerships with higher education & technical training partners who will utilize the ACE facility to expand their curriculum centers and workforce training programs.

Major components of the project include:

  • 8,000 square feet of new convertible educational/event/exhibit space with ability to transform from one large space into separate laboratory classrooms or exhibit space via movable partition walls
  • A new lobby/entrance for museum which may double as a pre-function event space or house additional artifacts
  • A new state-of-the-art simulator training lab, holographic theatre/planetarium and aerospace resource center
  • A new ACE corporate headquarters and educator planning space

Inspiration at our Core

The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), a nationally-recognized leader in STEM and aerospace education located on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus needs your support as we take the next step in creating a learning center that engages students of all ages and takes them all the way from the wonder of inspiration to a life filled with aviation love and learning.

Project SkyLab is the solution to a worldwide need for a STEM-prepared workforce and particularly for pilots and technicians to support the growing aerospace industry.

Project SkyLab will include a brand new educational laboratory classroom expansion that significantly grows our STEM learning ecology footprint. By increasing the footprint, ACE will further enhance its role as a key facilitator in creating a pipeline of aerospace and engineering professionals for aerospace companies in the U.S. and all over the world. Not only that, Project SkyLab will expand capacity for ALL of ACE’s aerospace programming which includes:

  • Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum –where people of all ages are introduced to innovators and inventions both past and present as well as hands-on STEM learning exhibits
  • Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA) –where high school students train for aerospace career paths as professional pilots, mechanics, drone operators, avionics technicians and engineers
  • The Lakeland Aero Club –where students spend after-school hours developing aerospace skills by building, maintaining and flying real aircraft
  • The Buehler Restoration and Skills Center – where adults and students collaborate together to tackle challenging aircraft restoration, construction and maintenance projects
  • Summer Camp Programs and Student Outreach – where youth gain skills and knowledge while exploring aerospace opportunities through engaging group activities (such as our mobile planetarium and Kit Fox mobile aircraft) on the ACE campus and in their local schools
  • James C. Ray Scholarship Program – where ACE staff mentor and support students as they pursue certificates and degrees.
  • Crossfield Educational Building – where students earn FAA certification as Airframe and Powerplant mechanics.

Project SkyLab – Engaging, Educating and Accelerating the Next Generation of Aerospace Professionals.

With your help, Project SkyLab will support:

  • STEMfusion – a STEM enrichment program delivered to K-12 students designed around comprehensive of state and national science learning standards.
  • Laboratory learning experiences where major exhibits are moved into classroom spaces for close inspection and training
  • Planetarium programs and film presentations
  • Seminars, webcasts, Facebook Live events and other large-audience programs
  • Visiting museum exhibits that provide opportunities for youth to connect with science in personally meaningful ways
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