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1st Lt. Bob Roberts produces online lessons for his squadron, invites other AEOs to use and share their lessons

Posted on April 20, 2020 at 5:16 PM by Virginia Smith

Lt. Roberts leads cadets on a visit to Ground Zero memorial
1st Lt. Bob Roberts leads cadets of the Rochester Composite Squadron  (his former unit) at a visit to Ground Zero in New York while the memorial was under construction. 

April 20, 2020

Meet 1st Lt. Bob Roberts, the AEO for Greenville Composite Squadron  in South Carolina (MAR-SC-014). Earlier in his CAP career, he served as an AEO for a composite squadron in the New York wing. Roberts, also a general aviation pilot and volunteer firefighter, says leading cadets in exploring STEM fields through hands-on education inspires him. His online lesson collection on YouTube is especially useful during this time of physical distancing and remote learning due to COVID-19 restrictions. We asked him some questions, and his answers follow.  

How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol?
I started CAP back in 2009 at the Rochester, New York Composite Squadron (NER-NY-273). I  served as AEO for Rochester during that time. I was also a graduate of the fire and EMT academy and a few years later became the president of the North Greece Fire Department in New York.  This was a big-time commitment; so I left CAP at that time to focus on the fire department. When I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, I wanted to get back involved with CAP. I really missed working with the incredible senior member teams and cadets.

1st Lt. Bob Roberts teaches a rocketry lesson.
Roberts leads a rocketry lesson with his current unit, the Greenville Composite Squadron.

Tell us about your awards and recognition in aerospace education.

I found out a few weeks ago that I had been nominated and won South Carolina AEO of the year.  That was humbling given the incredible AEOs we have in South Carolina.  Seeing cadets develop intrinsic motivation to learn more in the STEM fields when we teach our hands-on lessons is truly inspiring.  The aerospace field, combined now with cyber is such a dynamic environment.  

How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?

I’ve been flying general aviation since 2000. I have always enjoyed working in emergency services as a volunteer firefighter. CAP seemed to be a good fit between those two passions.

Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area?

When my oldest daughter was in second grade, I was the “Science Helper Dad."  I got a chance to help with STEM in her class to start and then later with the elementary school.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided to get my masters in education and leave my engineering job to become a teacher.  While I did get a masters in both education and special education, I ended up staying professionally as an engineer.  This is where CAP really was a win/win.  I got to explore the teaching side and being able to stay in engineering gave me access to a lot of wonderful STEM- related concepts to work with the cadets on.

Tell us about Aerospace Education Live, your YouTube project of online STEM lessons.

AE Live is very new.  It is a direct result of trying to keep cadets and senior members in our local squadron engaged while we are not meeting in person.  If you ask my wife, she will tell you that I have a bad habit of never doing anything half way.  So the decision was made that if AE Live was going to be real, then it would be the best it can with limited budget and no immediate production staff to help. As time goes on, we will strive to get incrementally better and better.  

The internet is wonderful in that if you make something great for just one squadron, any other squadron can also make use of that product without any additional effort.  So far, we have seen great attendance by our cadets. Since it’s online, we have a good mix of folks that take part live, as well as watch later. This now means that, the same information can be valuable to another cadet or senior member in the future when they are searching for that information.

AE Live is currently setup to run 3 programs:

  1. We have a weekly Monday program where we live stream at 7 p.m..  This is a replacement for our normal AE content at our weekly squadron meetings. We have started seeing lots of viewers from other parts of the country joining our streams as well. Many of them communicate with me, and it’s wonderful that our program can be used by other squadrons to help fill a temporary gap.
  2. We have started producing video lessons on Civil Air Patrol's AE Dimensions modules.  The goal is to publish one chapter a week from the six modules until they are all done.  The hope is that cadets can use these videos to reinforce the reading material.  Everyone learns differently, and this gives the individuals another option where they can study on their own.
  3. We are promoting the Rocketry Program. We have done lessons on Stage 2 of the Rocketry Program, including a live building of the rockets. We will be going back to Stage 1 and then moving forward to Stages 3-5.  

Areas that we will be going into in the future:

  1. AE “Lessons of Excellence.”  The goal is to build a strong team by allowing AEOs from all over the country to be able to present a lesson that they are proud of and want to show other AEOs.  This should help give other AEOs additional ideas for their local squadrons as well as give AEOs a platform to interact with our peers across the country.  We are currently looking at this at a group level, but there is no reason it cannot scale up nationally.
  2. “So you’re now an AEO!” series in which we will provide help and information to individuals who are brand new to being AEOs. These individuals may have little to no experience in the role,  especially in smaller squadrons.  The series will be designed to work with the great material already available from NHQ and our printed regulations.  
  3. “What makes this great” series where we will do detailed reviews of specific air/spacecraft.  These will be shorter and digestible for individuals in CAP as well as general public.
  4. Your ideas!!  What ideas do you [the reader] have that would be awesome?  Reach out to me if you think it would be a great addition and if you want to help bring it to life.

We currently are shooting for two per week while we are working outside of normal meetings.  After we get back to normal meetings, the goal is to publish one AE Live video a week.  

We live in a society where access to rapid and digestible information is all around us.  I really wanted to help put together a platform that can fill that need for AE at CAP.  Our brains learn best when we can get access to information that is repeated in different formats.  We have had really wonderful written products. The goal is that AE Live will add another dimension for the cadet and senior learners. 

To view the page, CLICK HERE.

How can other AEOs assist you in this project?

Here’s where you, the reader of this, can help.  We need your ideas; we need your skills to help the production quality.  This might be sending videos of orientation rides or sending great pictures you have that you would like added. If you know senior members or cadets that are great with graphic design, the help might be creating slides or animations.  But more than all of that, if we can cultivate the collective teaming between AEOs across our regions and country and share with each other the incredible ideas that YOU all have, then we really will come out of this time of challenge poised to succeed! If you would like to be a co-host please reach out to me.  These shows work better with more creators involved. I can be reached at

Our videos are currently at  Visit, like, subscribe and comment on the videos. Join the live streams and take part in the AE conversations.  I look forward to meeting so many of you there.  The more of you that do that, the feedback will help make better content.  Also the more views a video has the better it shows up in the YouTube “math." This makes it easier for other CAP members to find the videos when they search for them.

What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?

Cadets are in school all day.  Don’t make AE another class for them.  There are amazing things happening in AE every single day.  You shouldn’t have to look hard to find engaging topics and ways for them to get hands-on.  All lessons should have a strong hands-on component.   

Also, take advantage of the STEM kits CAP has to offer. They are amazing. If you're not doing them, you should make it a goal to research and apply quickly!

Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience working with cadets and/or students or teachers:

I love the “aha” moments.  When you can see someone, a cadet or senior, work through a hands -on exercise and their brain just finally get’s it.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add for this spotlight on an AE officer.

It’s important for all us to not shy away from challenges when the world around us changes. There is always a way for us to work together and enforce changes to help -- even if it’s something small.  Collectively, it all adds up and we make a big difference together.

While many successes start with the drive of one person or small team. The long-term success is driven by the work of incredible teams. If you’re an AEO today, develop that team inside your squadron and outside of it.  If you're not sure where to start, contact me, and you just added another person to your team!



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