Audrey Wood, 14, and Danielle Titus, 13, climbed in the cockpit of an airplane last Friday with USU flight instructor A.J. Schreiber. Once they got off the ground, the girls took turns piloting the airplane.
For three years, girls ages 11-17, have piloted airplanes as part of the Cache Makers program.
Claire Duggar, a senior in the Utah State University Aviation Technology program, has worked on the Cache Makers aviation STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) program for three years. The Cache Makers’ girls go through a flight-training program and fly an airplane with the assistance of a trained flight instructor. The first two years Duggar helped, but this year she designed the course and scheduled everything for her senior project.
“It was fun to see the lights go one in the different aspects of what we did,” Duggar said. “Some of the girls lit up when they riveted a couple of pieces of metal together and then watching some others climb out of an airplane after flying it and hearing them say, ’I actually flew an airplane.’ It’s pretty cool.”
To learn how to fly an airplane, the girls had six weeks of instruction, including using a flight simulator.
When they met all the requirements, the girls were ready to take what they learned, get behind the stick and fly an airplane.
Bad weather kept the girls grounded through the month of April. Finally, on May 3 and 4, all systems were go; the weather was good. The girls climbed into the cockpit of the DA40, a piston driven four seat aircraft USU uses for their flight school training, and took off, leaving the Logan Airport behind.
Andreas Wesemann is the head of the flight program at USU.
“Kevin Reeves, one of the founders of Cache Makers, and I were talking, and less than five percent of girls are pilots,” Wesemann said. “If Cache Makers girls wanted to continue flying they would be a great fit for USU flight program.”
There is a lot more to Cache Makers 4-H than flying airplanes, it is a hands on STEM learning program.
Two friends formed Cache Makers to give students a hands-on approach into STEM education.
Reeves, a teacher of technology at Utah State University, got together with Joel Duffin who owns Atomic Jolt, a software development company, to begin Cache Makers, a STEM-based program for kids and teens.
He said the purpose of Cache Makers is to help kids find their passion in STEM.
“The program gives kids with the desire, mentors and resources necessary to get started.”
In the first year, there were three groups of 17 and 100 kids on waiting list.
The two applied for and received a grant from Workforce Services and their efforts grew. They reached over 1,000 kids in 6 weeks and have 6,000 active people in Cache Makers.
About a year into it, Reeves started the STEM for girls only.
“We started doing programs just for girls where we launched scientific balloons and launched model rockets, did some 3D printing and recently gave them aviation opportunities.”
Their goal was to build self-confidence in the girls, showing them what they can do with hands-on activities using STEM.
Cache Makers has a dedicated space at Bridgerland Technology College where both girls and boys can do anything from computer technology to woodworking. They have volunteers from local tech industries come in a work with the kids.
“This is cutting edge. We have space in our community; this is the future,” Amber O’Quinn, who supervises the Bridgerland facility, said. “We have a lot of volunteers who are generally willing to donate their expertise to help kids.”