The BushCat Build Program originated when Jeff Auen, Essex Skypark president and pilot and
Claudius Klimt, retired physician and pilot, presented this unique program to Jemicy’s leadership, and were enthusiastically embraced. It was designed to capture students’ imagination with the goal of discovering their “superpowers.” This was a natural extension of Jemicy’s other remarkable hands-on programs: Kinetic Sculpture Race (KSR), Woodshop, 3-D Printing, and Robotics. It also provides real-world application of lessons learned in chemistry, physics, math, and even art and geography; a compelling answer to “Why do I have to learn this?”
Each Saturday morning, the students meet at the Essex Skypark and methodically work through the construction manual and assemble hundreds of parts. They come together as a team while the aircraft itself comes together. In February 2022, a Sunday session was added as more students became involved.
Support for the program continues to grow, with instructors alumni Steve Dziuba ‘84 (corporate jet pilot), Dean Frail (pilot), and Tim Beasman (aerospace engineer and pilot) leading the team. Jemicy teachers August DiMucci and Sam Gensler ’14 and an enthusiastic community of parents and spouses also continue to play a welcomed role, offering expertise in related industries and providing breakfast and lunch for the students each week.
Students spend their weekends in structured build sessions that focus on transferable skills, material science, aviation-specific fabrication skills, and, of course, fun! They participate in skill-building exercises prior to applying those skills on the airplane itself. From safety wiring to soldering; assembling brake systems; and understanding the strength of materials, flammability, and much more, students acquire experience and skills that translate to areas outside of aviation.
But it’s not all work! Last spring, Steve Dziuba ‘84 conducted a tour of the large Lockheed Hangar at Martin State Airport, and students were able to sit in the pilot’s seat when the corporate jet electric was powered up. Over the summer, they were able to take the controls of a Cessna 172 with Mr. Dziuba instructing. Soaring over their houses, stadiums, the Chesapeake Bay, and even over Jemicy School, they enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the region and were given an official pilot’s logbook with their first flight recorded.
Students share their insights into the BushCat Program:
“Being part of the airplane team has been a highlight of my life so far. I had so much fun learning new things and working with my peers. I would do something like this again in a heartbeat.” - Liam Gimbel
“I also increased my teamwork skills because I had to work with others every session. Overall, great time, and I would recommend this to future KSR students.” - Owen Goodwin
“I’m amazed at the opportunity we have. Something like building a functioning aircraft is far beyond what I had imagined I would be able to do in high school.” - Tim Alper
‘Having the chance to build a plane was such a fun experience because not only did I get to meet people from the school and be friends with them, but also having the chance to do something not too many people get to do.” - Bryan Winstead
In October of this year, the students returned to begin the installation of the engine and flight instruments and mount the engine to the frame. The first flight is planned to occur before the end of this school year!
Join us in congratulating the following students who have contributed to the program thus far! They were selected based on interest, skills, and availability. We are so proud of each of you!
Timothy Alper ‘22
Carmen D’Anna ‘23
Niko Bennett ‘22,
Jack Dobson ‘22
Carson Duda ‘21
Liam Gimbel ‘23
Jonathan Kuessner ‘23
Owen Goodwin ‘23
Matt Sachs ‘22
Tannar Trippe ’23
Bea Waterman ‘23
Bryan Winstead ’22