Nancy Royer (left), WACO learning center director, works with participants in a WACO robotics program. CONTRIBUTED

WACO Aviation Learning Center project getting off the ground

Couple’s $1 million donation helps education programs.

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Troy residents Pat and Thom Robinson this summer donated the $1 million to help the Aviation Learning Center have dedicated space in a more than 10,000-square-foot addition.

Another $500,000 is being raised by WACO.

The facility is operated by the nonprofit WACO Historical Society. The society honors the WACO Aircraft Co. of Troy, the largest manufacturer of civil aircraft in the country in the 1920s and early 1930s. WACO also built gliders during World War II.

The WACO museum and airfield are located along County Road 25A at Troy’s south end.

The learning center will include multipurpose classrooms, a flight simulation lab, an exhibition space for the WACO Lecture Series and other activities and a hangar area where young people can continue to learn about the WACO aircraft, said Nancy Royer, the learning center’s director. That area also can be used by young people participating in robotics and other programs, which may be expanded to include drone robotics.

The existing WACO buildings will be for the museum when all learning center activities are moved into the new space.

“A lot of times our museum guests are coming through as kids are working on projects with supplies out and Legos everywhere,” Royer said. “Actually, this (project) will make for a better museum experience, too.”

The WACO team is working with Bruns construction to erect the steel framed building addition. Hopes are the foundation will be done by Thanksgiving so the building can be under roof before winter weather, said Jim McGarry, a retired county sanitary engineer and a WACO volunteer, working on the project with fellow volunteer Ken Ott.

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Additional project fundraisers include the search for corporate sponsors for each learning center classroom.

Also for sale are limited edition WACO pins similar to the original WACO Factory pins. A total of 100 pins will be available for donations of $50 or more. Other fundraising is in the form of in-kind donations and discounted prices on materials.

Substantial cost savings are being seen thanks to help with site work by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18’s apprentice training members, McGarry said. They have helped clean the property and will dig the foundation and install underground pipes, he said.

Hopes are the building will be completed by the end of summer 2018.

For more information, visit www.wacoairmuseum.org or call 937-335-9226.

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Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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