Aviation students represent Purdue at EAA AirVenture

by Mark Thom, associate professor of aviation technology

At the end of July, 14 students and I traveled to the annual EAA Oshkosh AirVenture exposition and air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The weeklong international event is considered to be one of the premier gathering spots for aviators, aerospace companies, and industry enthusiasts from around the world, where over 200,000 people and thousands of aircraft typically visit each year.

The purpose of the Purdue University trip was to operate an informational booth to recruit new students into the colleges of Technology and Engineering, as well as to be a focal point for industry professionals seeking aviation-related contact with Purdue. The students represented our four majors (aeronautical engineering technology, professional flight, aviation management, and aeronautical engineering) and the ROTC program. Despite near record high temperatures and no air conditioning, the Purdue students greeted and discussed careers with over 450  prospective students and families.  The enthusiasm and energy the students displayed was noted by many visitors and industry professionals. One family even changed their travel plans to include a stop at Purdue on their way home from Oshkosh, based on their positive experience with the students.

The week's events provided everyone an exciting array of aircraft displays, flying exhibitions, and a chance to visit with representatives of aerospace companies from around the world.  Over the course of the week the students:

  • were invited to an industry reception for Rudy Frasca, who received a lifetime achievement award for his work in developing flight simulation equipment
  • met astronaut Gene Cernan who stopped by the booth and examined the photo of him from his Apollo moon landing on display. He spent time with the students and autographed the picture on display.
  • participated in a college mixer where over 200 high school students had the opportunity to have dinner and interact in one location with 15 aviation colleges and universities.
  • participated in a seminar for a project called Women Soar at the University of Wisconsin, They discussed careers in aviation and aerospace. At the Women Soar event, the Purdue team led activities relating to some of the interpersonal communications needed in the aviation and aerospace professions, through the entertaining exercise of "how to make a peanut butter sandwich."
  • met with human resource managers and engineering managers from several aerospace companies to discuss hiring and careers.

Throughout the week, generations of former Boilermakers from around the world passed the Purdue exhibit.  Sometimes they stopped to visit, and just as often you could just hear shouts from the passing crowd of "Go Boilers!" and "Boiler up!"

Ashley Ringer, a graduate of aeronautical engineering technology and a graduate student in aviation technology, was the coordinator of the trip for the third year in a row.  Ashley did the contract coordination with EAA, obtained housing in Wisconsin for the Purdue team (not an easy task at convention time), assembled the student team, organized the work schedules, set up the college mixer participation and coordinated the Women Soar activity. This was her last year as coordinator as she now moves on to her graduate studies and full-time job at Caterpillar in test engineering.

The professionalism and enthusiasm of the Purdue students is not lost on the visiting public and the aviation professionals at the exhibition. Over the years many people have visited us, left, and then returned to us to talk again because of the positive experience they have had with our students. This team, like all of the Aviation Technology teams before, represented Purdue University extremely well and upheld the Boilermaker reputation to the highest degree.

Participating students included: Anna Bobrowski, Ashley Ringer, Craig Doppler, Jacqueline Cooney, Lauren Steele, Leanne Bergstrom, Micheal Thompson, Reilly Meehan, Trevor Ringer, Tyler Futch, Zach Tolley, Kim Molchan, Ava Liang and Jessica Gregg.

View photos from the event on Flickr.