Exploring New Heights

In Aeronautics Program

I am a senior transfer student at DuVal High School in Lanham. It is the only public high school in Prince George's County that has a dedicated aerospace program. I commute 20 miles a day to be a part of DuVal's student body so that I may participate in this prestigious program.

I am an ambassador to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. It was Mrs. Carolyn Harden, DuVal's aerospace instructional coordinator, who encouraged students in the Aerospace Applications I class to apply for an appointment with AIAA.

I was one of 20 selected with other high school students from around the globe. We serve as ambassadors for the Evolution of Flight Campaign throughout our four years of high school. We are responsible for completing assignments by specified due dates and educating our communities about the Evolution of Flight Campaign. This letter to the editor is part of that community education effort.

This year marks the centennial of the Wright brothers' first powered flight in 1903. We are brought together periodically to participate in an array of aviation- and aerospace-related activities and events from our freshman through senior years. Past special events included the following:

We toured the World Space Congress in Houston in October 2002. Once every decade, the world's space community assembles to take stock of the present and chart a new direction for the next 10 years in space. We witnessed a launch of the AIAA 1903 Wright Flyer Centennial tour and exposition. Our group toured the Texas Instruments Fabrication Center, Continental Airlines Headquarters and the Lone Star Flight Museum, which holds a rare collection of historically significant aircraft. It is the largest of its type under one roof in the southern United States, and it is unique in that the planes are restored to flying condition.

Kennedy Space Flight Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla. (July 2002), was another exciting aerospace excursion. We toured Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, which included the Delta 4 Launch Pad, the original Mercury launch site, and the Air Force Space Museum. We toured Kennedy Space Flight Center, which included launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building and Shuttle Landing Facility, and we spent time in the Apollo Saturn V Center. We also participated in a VIP tour of the Space Station Processing Facility.

Earlier, we visited North Island Naval Base, San Diego, Calif. (December 2001), EAA Air Academy and EAA Air Venture 2001, Oshkosh, Wis. (July 2001), and the Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (March 2001), where I participated in the filming of "Igniting the Flame," a promotional video highlighting AIAA's Ambassador program and its involvement in the Evolution of Flight Campaign. We also toured the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (October 2000) and were guests at the Advance Space Camp, Huntsville, Ala. (June 2000). We also visited the Boeing Plant/Offices in Seattle (October 1999) and toured the factory where commercial airplanes are assembled.

Through this program, I have been exposed to rare opportunities. I traveled abroad. I have met scientists, engineers, physicists and mathematicians with unbelievable experience and knowledge within the aerospace and aeronautical industries. I learned so much about aerodynamics, engineering concepts, and air and space travel. I will apply what I learned in many of my college classes at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which I expect to attend this fall.

I hope to be part of a new generation of aerospace and aeronautical engineers who have the knowledge to design, fuel, and fly super planes and shuttles of the future. I will be on the forefront of a new venture into history.

Ronnie Wilson

District Heights