Capt. Idris Ekungba and Capt. Uchena Abali from United States of America US-based Non-Profit Organisation, Project Sunshine and Rector of the International Aviation College, Ilorin, Capt. Yakubu Okatahi with students trained on drone Operations

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] United States of America US-based Non-Profit Organisation, Project Sunshine  has entered partnership with the International Aviation College (IAC), Ilorin, to organise AeroSTEM Fellowship for secondary school students in selected schools in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

AeroSTEM Fellowship was designed to provide interactive learning activities to young adults to equip them with materials and manuals to build a Remote Controlled (RC) aircraft.

For three days, 45 students were camped in the hostel of the Aviation College and taken through the manuals on making of RC aircraft.

Project Sunshine is championed by two US-based Nigerian Pilots – Capt. Idris Ekungba and Capt. Uchena Abali who work with American Airlines and Delta respectively.

At the closing of the three-day programme, Capt. Ekungba, who initiated the fellowship in Ilorin as a way of giving back to the community where he spent his formative years, said the project was to expose the kids to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) as well as piloting.

He stressed the need to catch the children young to develop interest in STEM, noting that only about 15 percent of African children have knowledge about STEM.  

He hailed the performance of the students during the three days the training lasted, saying, “We also had teachers from each of these schools come in with the students to also learn what we are teaching the students because we also have to be following up with them over the next few years. It is a long term process. The short term is starting from here.”

With his father, Jamiu Ekungba in attendance, he added, “I grew up in a home with a father that instilled the passion in me, the passion of always giving back to society. So I thought about what vehicle I could use to give back to society. 

“For me we still have a long way to go in aviation in Nigeria, a lot of developments we have to catch up with, with other developed countries. For me it is about developing the manpower, let’s get as much as it out there, let’s even get the kids interested in STEM because only about 15 percent of African youths even think about STEM and the world is moving in that direction. 

“For me it is not just about piloting and aviation, it is about developing Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. And those who want to be pilots, we would support them.”

Capt. Abali on his part hailed the level of assimilation of the students, saying they surpassed their expectations. 

“The level of assimilation and work they have done is beyond our expectation. We introduced them to drone operation and they created flyable operational drones,” he said.

Rector of the International Aviation College, Ilorin, Capt. Yakubu Okatahi said the programme was imperative to develop the next generation of STEM enthusiasts and aviation professionals who would take over from those retiring.

“A lot of pilots and engineers are retiring. Who will replace them? Are we going to allow the industry to die? No. And so we encourage them to continue so that they would be able to replace the ageing one so that the industry will not die.

 “The two gentlemen are from America but they are Nigerians. We have to give them kudos because they did not forget their home they wanted to give back to their community and that is what they have done. We accommodated the kids, we encouraged them and we sensitised them. Let them continue doing what they are doing very well.”


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