SHELTON, Conn. (AP) — The plane could be on fire but that shouldn't be 14-year-old pilot Narmer Bazile's immediate concern.

"His job is to fly the plane," said instructor Cemocan "Gemo" Yesil. "You take the biggest, most immediate problem first."

Other teens huddled around the cockpit as Bazile's co-pilot ran through a check list. Everything in a plane is governed by a check list, even if the craft is a flight simulator sitting in the Perry School library.

In short order, the plane was brought under control and it was someone else's turn to sit in the pilot's seat for another problem-solving exercise.

Part of a two week Engineering & Aviation Summer Camp, the idea, said Yesil, is to motivate and empower future leaders in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM.

"All the students here are interested," Yesil said. "Some of them are actually passionate."

Interest and passion will only get a student so far. Yesil wants to build confidence by giving participants a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of foundational skills and a whole lot of hands-on experience.

During the camp, high school students from towns like Shelton, Stratford, Fairfield, and Milford not only get the feel for flight simulators, but build and fly racing drones.

"It's part of a formal engineering process," Yesil said. "Showing 'I met the system requirements'."

Working in teams, the students, having learned first how to meet detailed engineering specifications, will start off building small drones then a larger one with a motor, frame and control board. On the last day of camp they will test fly the drones in front of friends and family.

Gabrielle Jacob, who will be a junior in the fall at Stratford High School, said the camp was suggested to her by a teacher who knew she was interested in the sciences.

"I never thought of engineering, though," Jacob said.

Bazile, who will be a freshman at Shelton High said, he enjoys math and technology.

"I do plan on learning to fly eventually," Bazile said.

Milestone C was launched in January by Yesil, a former fighter pilot now in the Air Force Reserve, and Dave Conelias, a systems engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford.

Their idea is to give participants a hands-on aerospace internship experience.

"There are a lot of STEM programs out there — robotics projects, electronic projects, but they are just snapshots," Yesil said. "This program is comprehensive in nature. We simulate what a real world engineering development program would be like over the course of a 40-hour program."

One of their first partners was the Shelton Public School system, which runs a Summer Learning Center with more than 280 participants.

Darla Lussier, director of the learning center, said the aviation camp fit right in to the host of other STEM-based enrichment classes offered, including one on how to code computers, and another on LEGO building.

The Milestone C class will run another two-week session starting Aug. 7 at Notre Dame High School in West Haven. Registration and tuition is $1,150, but scholarships are available.

In the fall, the same program will be offered in smaller pieces as an after school program in Shelton, West Haven, and possibly at Woodbridge and Fairfield, as well.




Information from: Connecticut Post,