Like most attractions in the Tampa Bay area, the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) was forced to pivot its operations and programming due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It has reopened with new fun programming.

Like most attractions in the Tampa Bay area, the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) was forced to pivot their operations and programming due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year brought our country, and indeed the entire world, a historic onslaught of trials and tribulations, but here at the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), the staff is pressing forward,” said ACE’s Carol Cali. “Our team has shown remarkable resolve, meeting each challenge with positive energy and a winning attitude. The required and responsible shuttering of our beloved SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus was a bitter pill to swallow, but this team has persevered in the face of that adversity.”

The pandemic created an all-stop for all of ACE’s in-person events. The staff pivoted and made its popular Destination Aviation Summer Camps a virtual experience. ACE’s expert educators also created a series of original videos known as STEMChats and released them over the summer to keep its STEM audiences engaged.

“Currently, ACE’s staff is gearing up to host its popular STEMtastics and Destination Aviation Summer Camps,” Cali said. “During the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, ACE will be offering SUN ‘n FUN attendees a mini STEMfusion laboratory experience, providing demos of its 3D printers, wind tunnels and offering the kiddos some cool take-home STEM activities. During the week of SUN ‘n FUN, parents can register their children for ACE’s summer camp programs as part of a special STEMfusion promotion of 50 percent off camper registrations if you register your child at the STEMfusion tent.”

The 47th annual SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is scheduled from Tuesday to Sunday, April 13-18. “ACE and SUN ‘n FUN continue to follow all CDC, State of Florida and City of Lakeland COVID-19 requirements and guidelines to ensure its guests’ safety while visiting its SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus,” Cali said.

Coming in the fall of 2021 is Project SkyLab. ACE’s leadership is boldly expanding both educational programming and facility space dedicated to STEM learning.

“In 2017, ACE’s board of directors drew a picture on a napkin of what they envisioned a 21st century science, technology, engineering and math center would look like on its SUN ‘n Fun Expo Campus. They called it SkyLab,” Cali said. “SkyLab, a 22,000 sq. ft. expansion that will increase the Florida Air Museum footprint to 60,000 sq. ft. and feature a STEM Innovation Center. SkyLab will be a gathering hub of emerging technologies built on a solid STEM foundation. The expansion includes five additional classrooms to accommodate daily, multiple school field trips. Annually, ACE’s staff engages over 50,000 students with our educational programs, summer camps and outreach activities.”

To learn more about ACE, visit www.flysnf.org. ACE is located at 4175 Medulla Rd. in Lakeland.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.