Wisconsin’s High School To Begin Second STEM Aircraft Project

Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017

The story of Westosha Central’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) aviation program in Westosha, Wis., is far from a story about just a club. It is a story of a motivated aviation enthusiast, an administration willing to dream, a supportive community, and future pilots, engineers, and innovators. Together, this group makes an everlasting and exponential impact by giving sky-high opportunities to high school students.

The story began in April 2014 as James Senft, the motivated aviation enthusiast, approached the school’s principal about an idea that sounded impossible. From the liability involved, space needed, and funding required, it seemed as if the idea was doomed from the start. Yet, it is through defying adversity that success is found.

Eagles Nest, a public charity, financed the purchase of a Van’s RV-12 aircraft kit and overtook the liability of flying the plane. The school provided the space for the club, overtook the risk while building the plane, and offered academic credit to students for completing ground school. Multiple community members, who shared the same vision, assisted by offering tools and donating scholarships to pay for the gas for students to take flying lessons. Businesses saw a chance to build and give back to the community by offering funding, tools and equipment for the plane. Senft volunteered to teach ground school and direct the program. Even local flight instructors offered lessons at a discounted rate.

Defying the odds, the dream came to fruition 18 months later as “Falcon One” took flight. In the end, it took a group of dedicated individuals, businesses, parents, administrators, and students who shared a goal and overcame all obstacles. Yet, the magnificence of the aviation program lies not in its creation, but in its impact on students.

To change the trajectory of someone’s life is truly powerful. The aviation club does just that. It inspires students to seek careers in engineering and aviation that were unheard of, or seemed out of reach, before the program began. Not only has this club given students a passion, but club president Josh Engberg says, “It’s given me a huge, unbelievable boost in life.” Through the hard work of securing and checking every nut, bolt and over 15,000 rivets, the aviation club gives members vital understanding, fundamental insight, and a deeper appreciation for aviation.

Although a relatively small club with 12-15 students, they have started building their second aircraft.

Recently, students from another local high school have toured the school’s workshop facilities and were able to obtain a taste of the program.

Axiomatically, the effects of the club are widespread, transcending Central High School and inspiring not only Central students, but also people in the community, students from other high schools, and individuals around the country that read about the success of this program and dare to dream themselves.

For additional information, email James Senft at senftj@westosha.k12.wi.us.

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