Girls Soar in Aerospace and Technology


To some people, the phrase "helicopter parent" means a mother or father overprotecting their child. But to John Hall of the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, the link between helicopters and families has a very different meaning. As a school psychologist who chairs the museum's education committee, Hall sees helicopters as a major tool in helping families encourage girls to pursue careers in technology.

To accomplish this goal, the museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania established its Women in Aerospace & Technology Program. The program enlists mentors including professionals from Southeastern Pennsylvania's regional aerospace industry, local leaders in education, and women undergraduates from nearby universities to inspire and teach local Girl Scouts. The college student mentors are highly motivated role models who join the girls for hands-on STEM explorations at the museum every other Saturday from October to April. 

Using many activities, Girl Scout troop leaders help student mentors and girls in the program investigate the physics of flight, environmental science, robotics, energy and chemistry, and space science, as they discover how scientists and engineers make it possible for helicopters to do what they do. 

Hall notes that helicopters help save lives and are critical in many fields including firefighting, military operations, news reporting, human search and rescue, counting and relocation of wildlife, and provision of aid after natural disasters. Helicopters also make scientific research possible in remote locations—from transporting scientists into areas like Antarctica, to airlifting out enormous rock-embedded fossils like dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, discovered far from any roads.