Skip to main content
Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Main Content

Maj. Dave Hooper of Illinois makes virtual AE lessons fun and engaging

Posted on February 10, 2021 at 5:35 PM by Virginia Smith

Portrait of Maj. Dave Hooper

February 10, 2021

Meet Maj. Dave Hooper, the Aerospace Education Officer for Lake in the Hills Composite Squadron in Illinois (GLR-IL-282).  Hooper, who has been flying planes since he was 13 years old, enjoyed a 29-year career flying Boeing 727, 757, 767 and 777s for a major international airline. A few years after retirement, he joined Civil Air Patrol after a CAP member with whom he flew asked him to join. He has been leading engaging virtual lessons during COVID-19 restrictions including working with VEX Code VR computer science curriculum and building skimmer cars. He enjoys making AE lessons fun for the cadets. "You have to create something where the cadets have to participate," he says of developing virtual meeting agendas. We asked him some questions about his career and membership in Civil Air Patrol. His answers follow, including links to the resources he uses.

Current duty position:

Illinois Wing Director of Operations and Standardization/Evaluation; AEO for Lake in the Hills Composite Squadron (GLR-IL-282)

How did you become involved in Civil Air Patrol?

Seven years ago, a CAP member with whom I used to fly asked me to join.

Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.

I have been in CAP for seven years. As a flight instructor, I was recruited as the AEO and I still serve in that position. I enjoy working with the cadets and fellow pilots. I was asked two years ago to become the Illinois director of standardization and evaluation.

Please list any awards or recognition you'd like to share:

  • 2014 AEO of the year for Illinois Group 22
  • Illinois Wing AEO of the year for 2014 and 2015

Please tell us about your aerospace/aviation career path.

I started flying at age 13. After college, I entered the U.S. Air Force as a pilot. Then I flew as a corporate pilot for 2 years. Following that, I was employed at a major international airline for 29 years flying Boeing 727, 757, 767 and 777s. I retired and then instructed at a small airport for five years, and then I joined CAP.

Tell us any interesting work you have done with virtual AE meetings, such as the vr.vex. How have you made the most out of virtual AE meetings?

I could not have done all these events without the help and creative ideas of my daughter, a STEM and Robotics Jr. High School teacher, Mrs. Sharon Lennstrom from Plum Grove Jr. High. She has helped me with ideas over the past 7 years. I have done the following with the cadets virtually.

Virtual meetings are difficult. You have to create something where the cadets have to participate. Make it enjoyable but NO "death by PowerPoint."

Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area?

I have been involved in aerospace (aviation) since I was 13. I am still learning a lot. If I enjoy it, then it’s not work.

Tell us about which Civil Air Patrol aerospace education programs you use internally and externally.

We have worked with:

The rocket STEM program; Weather Station STEM kit; Sphero STEM kit; Glider; Astronomy; Hydraulic Engineering; Bridge building; Quadcopter; Remote Controlled Aircraft.

We designed and tested wing sections to see which design would hold more weight. I also asked the cadets to design and build cardboard moon rovers. Additionally, we designed an aerospace specific BreakoutEDU game (see Our squadron also created a weight and balance night. These activities are just part of a list that includes many others.

What is the best advice you have for working with AEMs? Do you have any suggestions for AEM retention?

Learn from them. Gather their valuable advice as they are constantly working with young people, and they already know what piques their interest.

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

Attend the Region AE School. Remember, seeking advice from STEM teachers you know can be helpful, just as my daughter, a junior high STEM/Robotics teacher, helped me.

Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience working with cadets:

You learn so much from the cadets. When you can lock into what they are interested in, you will do well. When my daughter told me about Kahoot game-based learning, I had never heard of it before. When I talked about it at a meeting, it turns out that I was the ONLY one who had never heard about it. They LOVED it.

Is there anything else that we didn’t ask that you’d like to add for this spotlight on an AE Officer?

Sometimes, the difficulty is finding new material that interests the cadets. We did a great exercise at the Great Lakes Region AEO school. We sorted out lots of items we had on hand for several groups of cadets. Pencils, tape, balloons, tongue depressors, glue, rubber bands, whatever you could find so long as each group has the same items. Then string some fishing line about 14 feet from one chair to another. Then remind them that Apollo 13 had a problem. They had to design something to filter the air so they could breathe and get home alive, but they only had what was on board. The cadet teams had to design something that will attach to the fishing line with the items they had. Then, their design requirements were that it must be “self-powered” and it must travel exactly 12 feet along the line. When they had completed their designs, the team that hit closest to the 12-foot mark (but not over that mark), won! They LOVED it and wanted to do it again the following month. It's ideas like this that really help to educate them while they are having fun.




There are no comments yet.
Add Comment

* Indicates a required field

© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.