The Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) Department of Aviation and Emergency Management took their STEM trailer, hazmat suits and drones on the road to participate in the 2023 NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia Beach, Va.

It was the first year students and faculty participated in the three-day event at the Naval Air Station, which annually serves as an opportunity for students to learn, hands on, about aviation and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. More than 6,300 students from Virginia schools in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach attended the first day of the event, the outdoor STEM laboratory.  

Having a presence there was just one of the ways ECSU aims to continue educating the community about the realm of opportunity in the field of aviation and on ECSU’s campus.

“Many (students at the event) did not know that we existed or what we had to offer,” said Kevin Kupietz, Ph.D., chairperson for the Department of Aviation and Emergency Management. “We have had several people follow up with us, especially over the drone program and public safety applications.”

In June, the university revealed its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Pavilion, a state-of-the-art structure that’s the only one of its kind in North Carolina. ECSU is accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) and offers the only four-year Aviation Science and UAS degree programs in the state.

At the air show, students got a walk-through of the department’s STEM trailer that included a brief explanation of the capabilities of a drone by School of Science, Aviation, Health and Technology Professor Sheryl Bradford, Ph.D., and a chance to take the reins of a flight simulator. Students could also try on a hazmat suit.

Kupietz is hopeful ECSU can continue participating in the event and even transport students from Elizabeth City for the experience in the future. Aviation Science Major Paul Godfrey said he enjoyed showing students something new.

“It was an amazing opportunity being able to elaborate and educate the students on the different type of drones,” he said. “Being able to help young kids become enthusiastic about drones and aviation was a great experience.”