A STEM education event brought electric vertical takeoff aircraft, helicopters, a robotic dog and flying drone deliveries to more than 800 students at Westlake Academy on Tuesday. The event, organized by California venture capital firm UP.Partners and hosted by Dallas-based Perot company Hillwood, was intended to get students at the K-12 charter school excited about the future of mobility and inspire them to pursue aviation careers. Experts say the U.S. will need to meet demand for about 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025. At the same time, almost 2 million of these jobs could be left unfilled, because there are not enough people with the skills required for careers in STEM. Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group, said the event is a first-of-its-kind across the country, given the breadth of technology available from across the world for students to engage with.
“These children are seeing things that very few people have ever seen, so it’s very special,” Perot said. At the event, students got a chance to set off model rockets from Colorado-based Estes Rockets. Wing, the drone delivery service owned by Google parent company Alphabet, led a drone delivery of gifts to a few lucky students.
California-based aviation company Opener demonstrated an electric vertical takeoff and landing from its BLACKFLY aircraft. Students also got to view and ask questions about a Jetson electric vertical lift aircraft designed for recreational use and other helicopters. The community engagement event at Westlake Academy comes just days before the 2023 UP.Summit, an “exclusive gathering of the top minds in the world who are working on the future of mobility,” according to a Hillwood spokesperson. The UP.Summit will be held Wednesday through Friday at the Perot Circle T Ranch in Westlake. Event participants will include former President George W. Bush; former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Governor Greg Abbott; governors from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee; leaders from the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine; state representatives from Texas, California and Missouri; high-ranking U.S. military leaders from across branches; and executives from Walmart, Tesla, ExxonMobil, Boeing, Bell Textron, Microsoft and more 200 other companies.