Aviation camp takes off in Olathe thanks to two-campus partnership

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

by Kristi Northcutt

Kansas State University Salina and Kansas State University Olathe have partnered to offer an aviation summer youth camp this week on the Olathe campus. Nearly 60 campers, entering the second through seventh grades, participated from across the metro area.

During the camp, students practiced flying in a simulator, learned about air traffic control, the history of aviation, built and tested hot air balloons, and toured the New Century AirCenter control tower in nearby Gardner. Campers also received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Garmin hangar at the airport, which included static airplanes, helicopters and other custom technology.

The camp was led by six K-State Salina flight team students and Tom Karcz, assistant professor of aviation. Karcz and Olathe marketing communications coordinator Kristi Northcutt developed the idea for the partnership and camp opportunity at the K-State Coffman Leadership Institute last summer, which they both attended.

Karcz wanted to bring the aviation fixation camp to Olathe so that students from the metro area could be exposed to the tremendous opportunities available in aviation and technology at Kansas State University. Because the camp already exists at K-State Salina, duplicating it in Olathe was just a matter of logistics.

"There are so many people who have no idea that K-State Salina has one of the best aviation programs in the country, and K-State Olathe is a gem right here at our fingertips that allows us an opportunity to spread the word," Karcz said. "With so many students from Johnson County and the metro area funneling to all three of K-State's campuses, giving them this opportunity is just another way to excite them about becoming a Wildcat."

K-State Olathe, which has high-tech classrooms and relationships with many of the area schools, is a natural choice for the location of the camp. Students from all six Johnson County school districts and other districts from across the Kansas City metro area and Missouri attended.

"Partnering with K-State Salina to offer this summer camp has inspired students to become more interested in aviation, and see how STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — concepts play into the field," said Micheal Strohschein, director of K-12 partnerships at K-State Olathe.

K-State Salina offers three instrument runways adjacent to campus, modern classrooms, labs, a Canadair Regional Jet simulator, an operational dispatch center, an aviation maintenance training hangar and a nationally recognized unmanned aircraft systems program — facts that none of the 60 students knew prior to attending the camp.

"It's been thrilling to see the students' faces light up with excitement about what they've learned, and Tom and the flight team have been phenomenal to work with," Strohschein said. "We’re sure this will be an annual opportunity, which will continue to grow in scope and popularity at the Olathe campus."