STEM to Naval Academy
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Show 1637: STEM to Naval Academy
Air Date: September 11, 2016
Rob McClendon: Well, the late Gordon Cooper is one of several small town Oklahomans who rocketed into space as a NASA astronaut. Cooper was one of the seven original Mercury astronauts and now the namesake of the CareerTech technology center in his hometown of Shawnee, which is where our Courtney Maye met a young lady whose interest in engineering now has her flying high.
Courtney Maye: Whitney Heer joined the pre-engineering academy at Gordon Cooper Technology Center as a sophomore in high school. Fast forward seven years and she’s now a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and is in flight training school. Heer hopes to fly jets in the military, and it was Gordon Cooper Technology Center that gave her the math foundation she needed.
Courtney Maye: Since she was 8 years old, Whitney Heer wanted to fly jets. And today, her dream hasn’t changed.
Whitney Heer: When I was 8 years old, my mom took me to OU Sooner Flight Academy, and through that camp you learn all things, everything associated with flight. Like aerodynamics, how rockets fly, how airplanes fly, everything like that, and at the end of the week, once you’ve learned all of those things, they take you up in a small aircraft, and you get to fly for probably about a half an hour. Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a pilot, and I found out that, you know, the military flies jets, so I wanted to join the military and fly jets.
Courtney: Heer found her pathway to the military while in high school when she joined Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s pre-engineering program, which gave her the math and science foundation she needed to enter the Naval Academy.
Heer: The pre-engineering academy drew me to Gordon Cooper. So this gave me kind of a solid platform to stand on as far as physics, chemistry and math.
Courtney: Sue Frericks is a pre-engineering instructor at Gordon Cooper Technology Center. Frericks taught Heer while she was in the pre-engineering academy, and she is still the person Heer calls for advice today.
Sue Frericks: Whitney was incredibly -- gritty is the word I would use -- because she worked hard and she never gave up. She was always willing to come in after class or to ask questions and just stick with it to get it done, whatever that took.
Heer: My instructors kind of just, they kept me going on the frustrating days. You know, I’m not good at physics, I’m not good at math, and they’re like well you want to go to the Naval Academy so we need to get this figured out. I spent hours after school with Miss Frericks doing math for the ACT, just practicing those problems and things.
Courtney: As a student at Gordon Cooper, Heer was involved in SkillsUSA, public speaking and First Robotics, and she spends her spare time mentoring students in these organizations.
Frericks: It is really important to us to see our students carry on that tradition of mentoring and reaching out and helping other people see opportunities that are available in STEM.
Courtney: Heer will spend the next few months in flight training school doing what she loves – flying.
Heer: Flying is probably the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, and flying in a jetliner, you know, you hop on Southwest or something and fly across the country, that’s not the same. Being in the cockpit, being the person that’s there, it’s like everything that you do is what the airplane’s gonna do. Totally different experience. It’s a little bit scary but amazing at the same time.
Courtney Maye: Once Heer finishes flight training school she will be placed in a platform specific school based on her skill level. And when a student masters his or her specific platform, jets for example, they report to their first squadron.
Rob McClendon: All right. Well, we certainly wish her luck. Thank you so much, Courtney.
Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.