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GFPA FOUNDATION AVIATION AND STEM CAMP 2018 - BY SAVANNAH BOLTMAN

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The July cold-front with its below zero temperatures and ice-cold winds was not enough to keep 100 keen school girls from getting up early every morning to embrace the day’s adventures on the 2018 Aerospace and STEM camp, hosted by the Girl Fly Programme Africa Foundation (GFPA) in partnership with Girls Invent Tomorrow and Ladies that UX.

The GFPA Foundation is a non-profit organisation for the information and skills development for school and post school learners in programs promoting Aerospace and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The GFPA operates under the umbrella of a registered hybrid organization Women and Aviation (W&A), founded by Refilwe Ledwaba.

The GFPA Aerospace and STEM camp, held from the 30th of June to the 5th of July, hosted 100 female students between the ages of 14 and 18 all chosen via application process to be members of the Class of 2018. Applicants are considered based school results and motivational essays. The GFPA encourages girls find their place in this diverse and forward-thinking industry by educating and empowering them with all the information and networking required to understand the industry and become a successful professional. This year’s camp hosted an additional 20 students from Maun and Gaborone, as we partnered with the Women in Aviation Botswana chapter.

            

The first day of 2018 camp proved to be a thrill for a lucky 5 campers who were chosen for their exceptional academic standings and motivations to partake in a day filled with aerodynamic lectures, advanced simulator fun, and their very first intro flights. The Fly Girls were hosted by Avcon Jet and Grand Central Airport.

A dull moment ceased to exist throughout the duration of camp, from the moment the influx of chosen students arrived in Gauteng on Sunday the 1st of July from all over the country to embark on the ride to the camp site, Paramount Adventure & Conference Venue.

Two of the camp days run by Girls Invent Tomorrow and Ladies That UX had students immersed in the wonders of design thinking, technology, and coding. In their separate groups (each named after an element on the periodic table), the girls presented their problem-solving protype designs intricately constructed from simple materials, before moving on to group coding. The GFPA team was truly blown away by the innovation and creativity the campers displayed in these activities.

Inspired minds asked industry-related questions to their heart’s content on our Industry Professionals day- hosting a diverse panel of inspirational women to speak to the students. Aerospace-specific activities were run throughout the camp including the pink-paper-plane challenge, a delta-dart making afternoon, and a chance for every student to explore the controls in the NAC/WITS flight simulator kindly sponsored for GFPA to use for the week.

The experience would not have been complete without the exciting and in-depth career expo, consisting of companies ranging from cabincrew specialists, to aircraft technicians and avionics professionals. The exhibitors brought goodies and brochures, all proving to be an incredible source of information for the girls to utilize as they explored their opportunities for potential career paths. The camp closed with a surprise gala evening, where the girls were recognized for their individual strengths and qualities, as well as their participation on our cherished camp.

The GFPA team aims to give our girls a diverse and well-rounded experience to assist in their career choices, academic and personal growth, and social interactions. An electric energy was palpable through every moment on camp- not only because of the exciting physical activities and educational experiences- but from the power of 100 girls growing together to become a family. A camp favourite- the cultural presentation evening- had every soul on site dancing and singing along with the group chants and dances the girls so willingly came forward with. There is immense beauty and passion in empowering a group of girls who so enthusiastically take on the challenges and opportunities we present. However, nothing compares to the truly magical energy of friendships and life-long connections blossoming around a central passion- in this case: Aerospace and STEM.

We are proud to be a part of this readily advancing industry by developing and encouraging the most innovative, driven, passionate and charismatic group of girls out there, to diversify the industry whilst learning to love and appreciate the power of their potential. We continue to engage with and mentor past camp participants and are especially excited to see many of them furthering their education through prestigious universities and thereafter pursuing careers as aerospace engineers, technicians, astrophysicists, pilots, air traffic controllers, drone operators, technology designers and more.

From the GFPA Team, we must express our greatest appreciation to our wonderful sponsors- who made this experience possible for the students. Thank you to our Platinum Plus sponsor: Airports Company South Africa. Our Platinum sponsors- FlySafair as our domestic carrier, ATNS and the South Afrian Civil Aviation Authority. Gold sponsors- Airlink, Acvon Jet Africa, Steffanuti Stocks, and Grand Central Airport. Silver sponsors- Bombardier and Air Botswana. Bonze sponsors- Kenlet education, Mack Air, Wilderness Air, APM (Africa People Mover), Flight Connect, T&D (Aeroclub of South Africa). Blue sponsors: African Pilot, Aeronautical Society of South Africa, and Boeing. A successful camp it has been, and we so look forward to seeing where these students find themselves in the future. Visit our social media platforms for updates on previous campers as well as information on upcoming events!

“Pink Skies” – The GFPA Team