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Each year, SAP encourages employees to get involved and volunteer in their communities both throughout the year and especially in October during our official “SAP Month of Service”.

Last year, I thought it would be great to create a fun volunteer event for aviation enthusiasts at the Hiller Aviation Museum. After a quick inquiry, I learned that during the same time, they host an annual Aero Design Challenge which helps kids gain hands-on STEM skills and inspiration using aviation as a very cool gateway.  So, not only did the museum have a strong NEED for additional volunteers, but SAP had an even bigger army of motivated employees in Silicon Valley looking to help out.

That year, over 200 elementary students learned design-thinking processes used in engineering as well as basic principles of flight. It was eye opening to see what worked, and what could be improved. Even better was the fact that the museum’s education leads were strong collaborators who welcomed new ideas. BUT, I didn’t realize how much more we would be able to accomplish in THIS year’s Aero Design Challenge. This October, we would almost double the number of students participating - and we were able to help Hiller expand their program to include a High School program as well. By the end of the 2016 Challenge, over 388 kids gained hands-on STEM skills, with help from close to 60 volunteers from the SAP family and the local aviation community – including a few United pilots and Gap employees.

So what made this year so exciting? Enter the Drones!

Or, if you’re a real aerospace engineer, you might choose another name – UAS, UAV, RC.  Whichever term you prefer, “drones” made all the difference. Why? Drones are a hot new topic that kids can get their hands on much more easily to explore further after participating in the challenge. With more and more consumer drones of all sizes  being produced and technology costs coming down, hands-on aviation becomes so much more accessible.  In this year’s Aero Design Challenge, “Drone by Design”, the kids participated in a 2-hour exploration into design and engineering process, followed by an introduction to concepts in drone aeronautics, then breaking into small teams of 4 to construct a tri-copter or quad-copter, followed by test flights via simulator, and actual flight experience in Hiller’s “drone cage”.

I can’t wait to see how the topic evolves in 2017  If that sounds like a fun way to give back to the community, I’d like to invite any Silicon Valley aerospace or aviation enthusiasts in our SAP community to join as a volunteer next year – all are welcome. You can check out our summary video, and read comments from a few of the volunteers below.

Let me know if you’d like to join our effort in 2017!

  • “Thank you so much for sharing the experience with school teenagers and kids at the Museum. I had so much fun and a rewarding time with them learning something new.” Gustavo T

  • “It was great fun to mentor the kids last Saturday at the Hiller Aviation Museum. Best quote I took away from one of the kids who’s group group finished successfully the drone build challenge: 'I am now an engineer!'   Mission accomplished.” Thomas P