Collaboration Gives Bentonville Teachers Immersion Into Advanced Air Mobility

Collaboration Gives Bentonville Teachers Immersion Into Advanced Air Mobility
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The U of A's Master of Science in Operations Management Program and Bentonville Schools collaborated to incorporate workforce education opportunities in advanced air mobility.

Rich Ham, associate director for the College of Engineering's master's programs in operations management and engineering management, conducted a four-day class for 40 Bentonville teachers to help them earn a 107 certification, which allows them to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. These teachers will educate students in Bentonville Schools' three-year Unmanned Aerial Systems Program on regulations, safety, applicability, limitations and restrictions and much more.

Bentonville Schools' program is part of the Career and Technical Education Program. As the demand for skilled workers in advanced air mobility increases in Northwest Arkansas and globally, this allows high school graduates to transition straight to the workforce.

Toby Nix, career and technical education coordinator for Bentonville Schools, said awareness of advanced air mobility is increasing, not only in the newly implemented Unmanned Aerial Systems Program, but also in student clubs, where they are integrating drones into club projects.

Ham, a transportation executive with four decades of experience in security safety operations and administration compliance and enforcement, has a wealth of knowledge with his experience and background, Nix said.

"We were very happy to have him work with our teachers. We needed quality instructors and saw the opportunity to collaborate with the community," Nix said.

As part of the multiday camp, teachers received hands-on experience in the field and on the final day, toured Thaden Fieldhouse and Flight School and DroneUp hub, both in Bentonville, and the Zipline International platform in Pea Ridge, which allowed them to observe a drone launch in action.

"Our teachers were blown away by the real-world component of the drones in action," Nix said. "It permeates almost every kind of industry."

Ham, who oversees graduate certificates in homeland security and advanced air mobility and instructs the advanced air mobility courses for the master's in operations management program, sees a real advantage to training quality instructors in this field and knows first-hand the demand for trained and skilled workers across almost every industry where drones are being used in everyday operations.

"As we see components of advanced air mobility mature, the need for a highly skilled workforce at all levels is mandatory," Ham said. "We need drone pilots, operators, sensor specialists, engineers, operations managers, mechanics and supply chain specialists to make this happen. We have to start early to engage students in junior high and high school to reach a sustainable workforce."

Nix added that the Unmanned Aerial Systems Program continues to evolve each year, and several teachers have passed their remote pilot certifications. The program learning objectives overlap into other areas that allow students to gain additional skills in video and audio editing, Adobe certifications and much more.

The university's Master of Science in Operations Management Program offers a two-course microcertificate in Advanced Air Mobility Autonomous Operations in which students can gain the specialized knowledge and skills obtained in the FAA Remote Pilot certification and then can continue on to earn a four-course graduate certificate in Homeland Security, which follows the Certified Protection Professional body of knowledge requirements of American Society of Industry Security. These programs accept students with any undergraduate bachelor's degree.

The M.S.O.M. degree program began in 1974 and is designed for professionals from a broad range of backgrounds, including business and government operations. Students learn how to create value to the production of goods and services while working with worldwide suppliers and customers. To learn more about the Master of Science in Operations Management and other graduate certificate programs, visit our website at


Karin A. Hickenbotham, marketing and communications, Department of Industrial Engineering
College of Engineering

Jennifer P. Cook, director of communications
College of Engineering


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