Taking Flight 2022 inspires local families, while STEM+C continues its good work within the aviation industry.

Paul Kaup knows how to equip the future workforce in aviation. It takes a bit of effort, some good friends who see the vision, and the ability of a community to come together and make great things happen. Keep reading to learn more, but here’s a quick spoiler … you can learn how to do the same thing in your community as well, and it’s much more fun than you can imagine!

Announcements from the main stage kept everyone informed, while the shade provided respite from the heat and a central area to build and converse.

You see, it’s no secret that the aviation industry has been desperate for engineers, aviators, technicians, air traffic controllers, safety inspectors, aviation mechanics, etc., for years. The list goes on and has left many within the industry scratching their heads and asking each other, “What should we do?” Paul Kaup, a captain with Southwest Airlines, was asked a similar question and came up with a great response: “Let’s get to work.”

Paul founded a nonprofit named STEM+C (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, plus Creativity). It’s an honest-to-goodness 501(c)(3), and it’s doing some great things. As a matter of fact, it’s an authorized AMA STE(A)M Partner, and we in the AMA Education department have been big fans of the work coming out of this organization for years.

Now that’s a rocket! GBRocketry made quite an impression on visitors with the largest rocket on-site.

Paul began by inviting youth to his workshop to design and build model aircraft, model rockets, and associated engineering challenges. He uses a variety of tools, techniques, competitions, and talents to teach the students to fly these model aircraft. Paul has even expanded the available resources by purchasing and making available to the community a STEM+C-dedicated Cessna 150 for full-scale flight instruction. This enables youth in the STEM+C program to self-direct their learning path to go in any direction they desire, producing self-motivated, competent individuals who are ready to take on the challenges life presents in stride.

This Cessna 150 is more than an aircraft. It’s a tool that enables a clear pathway to aviation careers within the STEM+C program.

Paul worked with more and more students, teaching them aviation principles through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) process. Ultimately, the goal has been to teach these youth to ask questions, observe data, conduct themselves with humble confidence, and solve problems. It’s the perfect mix of what the aviation industry needs in its up-and-coming workforce.

Eventually, Paul posed a challenge to the students: to capture the Guinness World Record for highest-altitude, remote-controlled (RC) model aircraft flight. You can read more about how the story unfolded by visiting this blog from 2020.

STEM+C members (L-R) Jake, Eric, Nick, Rachel, and Dani with their Blackbird RC aircraft.

How does Paul (and how can you) find students who are interested in pursuing aviation as a career? He goes out into the community where they already are and invites them along for the ride, while ensuring that the ride is fun, rewarding, and challenging.

AMA’s Kyle Jaracz buddy boxing Ben while his father, Jack, observes.

How does Paul (and how can you) find students who are interested in pursuing aviation as a career? He goes out into the community where they already are and invites them along for the ride, while ensuring that the ride is fun, rewarding, and challenging. Taking Flight 2022 is a perfect example of this. Paul coordinated with his local EAA chapter, engineers, flight schools, colleges, hobby shops, and local AMA members who share a love for aviation to convene for an event that was held at a local park on a beautiful day in April. It didn’t happen by chance. Paul leaned on each and every contact that he had to develop a plan, raise money for the use of the facility, secure volunteers, and ensure the event’s success.

A detailed website included overhead plans and information for attendees to utilize, all without the cost and waste of printed media.

STEM+C sanctioned the event through the AMA, coordinated with the AMA Government Affairs team to ensure that they had the airspace authorization they required, and requested and obtained assistance from AMA District X Vice President Greg Stone for volunteers. Greg coordinated with District X Associate Vice President (AVP) Bob Hunter, who tirelessly assisted with FPV buddy-boxing multirotor flights during the event. Buddy boxing also took place on RC simulators, ground vehicles, and fixed-wing model aircraft. There were even robots duking it out during the event! The number of opportunities wasn’t wasted on the attendees who took full advantage of all that the event offered. I was able to attend on behalf of the AMA as the Education Director, primarily assisting with buddy boxing, something I truly enjoy doing.

Tie Dye Samurai showcased several robotics projects during the event.
AMA District X AVP Bob Hunter ran the FPV Multirotor Experience during Taking Flight 2022.
AMA Education Director Kyle Jaracz helps attendee Matthew buddy box an Aeroscout at the event.
STEM+Cs Gerrit Kaup is buddy boxing a student during the Taking Flight 2022 event.
Superstition hobbies had a great setup overlooking the event where visitors could try their hands at driving RC Cars and trucks.

A well-staffed and well-planned kids area was located close to the on-site playground, and students enjoyed a number of crafts and activities. Two high-altitude balloon launches took place during the event as well, launching safely and efficiently between event sponsor tents. A public-address system was set up and announcements to the flightline were efficient and effective. Combat demonstrations from the STEM+C crew, along with 3D flying by JR-sponsored pilot Cayden Bruce were crowd-pleasers. At the top of each hour, helicopter demonstrations were also conducted for the enjoyment of visitors and staff alike.

Cayden Bruce (L) prepares to wow the crowd with his 3D skills.
Helicopter demonstrations were a highlight for attendees.

Attendees were able to purchase low-cost kits and also received free AMA materials, including AMA-branded Guillow’s gliders, AMA ALPHAs, AMA BETAs, and reading materials such as Park Pilot and Model Aviation magazines.

Kids activities were certainly kinetic! Here, a participant launches a stomp rocket into the sky.

An evening flying-wing FPV formation capped off the event, beautifully closing out a day of sharing the hobby we all love with a community filled with future fliers. It was my pleasure to work alongside so many passionate aviation ambassadors. My sincere thanks to the volunteers, partners, sponsors, and attendees. I look forward to visiting again soon!

See you at the flying field!

โ€”Kyle Jaracz, AMA Education Director


The Academy of Model Aeronautics; Superstition Hobbies; Hobby Action; EAA Chapter 228; Vertical Flight Society Arizona Chapter; ACESA; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; ASU Aviation; Space Data; Rocketry Works; Rippin’ AZ; AIAA; REKT Drones; Tie-Dye Samurai; East Valley Institute of Technology; and SciTech Institute.


MHS (Shawn Quinn); FTCA (the Hansen Family SWA Flights); Pilot Institute (Jacob Minker); Traxxas; DesertRotor; Coldwell Banker Realty (Nicholas Caulfield); Jetstream Health Coaching; and Kiwanis International.


  1. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
    Outstanding outreach, coordination and execution of a day event to emulate!

    Impressive use of community and aeromodelling resources.
    Daren Hudson
    District 1 AVP- Ed. Outreach

  2. When a longtime member asks, “where are the kids in the hobby today,” you don’t have to look much further than events such as this one. The really good news is that hopefully some of them go on to careers as noted in the blog that benefit all of us.

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