When the Dare County Medflight helicopter touched down on the lawn adjacent to Elizabeth City State University’s Fine Arts Center, paramedic Ashley Heppert stepped out, followed by pilot Mike Hill. As the rotary blades of the helicopter slowed to a halt, about 40 high school students gathered around to listen as Hill talked about the aircraft.

“This is a helicopter, not an air ambulance,” Hill, a former military pilot explained. He went on to describe the engine, the fuel capacity, and the significance of the craft in terms of aerospace technology. His talk was aimed at enlightening the participants in ECSU’s second NASA Aerospace Academy.

Each summer two camps are held on the campus of ECSU. Aviation program director, Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, says while the NASA-sponsored camp has been taking place for two years, the camp’s origins go back seven years when it was dubbed the ACE Academy – ACE stands for Aviation Career Education.

“They are learning about aerospace aviation careers and STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) in general,” said Rawat.

Monday, June 18, was the first day of the weeklong camp. That was the day the helicopter stopped at ECSU. The campers were able to scramble around the aircraft for photos, climb inside to inspect the cockpit, and ask the crew questions.

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Originally published June 19, 2018. Written by Robert Kelly-Goss.