Love of Aviation Inspires Kent State Students and Alumni to Volunteer for Props and Pistons Festival 

 As an instructor in Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering, Michael Bowser, BS, ‘01, teaches students the elements of flight theory for non-pilots. 

As president of the non-profit organization Inspire Aviation and chair of the Props and Pistons Festival, Bowser, and a crew of volunteers, including Kent State students and alumni, teach the public that the sky is the limit for careers in aviation. 

“A lot of people see airplanes as a cosmic tool that they don't know anything about,” said Bowser, a Wadsworth resident. “They don’t know how they (airplanes) fly. They don't know how to get into aviation jobs. And they are unaware of all the jobs that are available in the aviation career field. People see an airplane and they think of a pilot, but there are so many other jobs out there.” 

The Props and Pistons Festival is planned and funded by Inspire Aviation, a non-profit organization whose goal is promoting aviation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. 

In addition to the festival, Inspire Aviation conducts outreach throughout the year in schools, youth groups, and hospitals. 

Kent State alum Ben Nevison, BS ‘23, a recent graduate of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, is a volunteer for Props and Pistons Festival. Nevison, who majored in aviation management, is currently employed as an airport operations supervisor at Pittsburgh International Airport. His long-term goal is to be a director of a major commercial service airport. 

Nevison heard about Inspire Aviation and got involved with the organization because it was an opportunity to further his knowledge of the aviation industry while making new contacts.  

“I had to jump on the fantastic opportunity to volunteer in a fast-paced aviation environment such as an airshow knowing that the experiences gained would serve me well in future career opportunities,” said Nevison, of Huron, Ohio. 

Alum Ben Nevison is a volunteer for the Props and Pistons Festival

Nevison will volunteer as a performer liaison for the upcoming 2023 Props and Pistons Festival, to be held on August 19-20, 2023, at Akron-Fulton Airport. Various vendors, vehicles, and aircraft will be on display, ranging from World War II warbirds, current military aircraft, medical helicopters, simulators, and dozens of other aviation displays. 

“I continue to volunteer with the Props and Pistons festival because of the great relationships I have the opportunity to form with other committee members, volunteers, and performers,” Nevison said. “The cherry on top is the great sense of comradery and love of aviation that all involved with the show display.” 

Bowser Has an Air Force Background 

After high school, Bowser joined the U.S. Air Force in 1995 and served in various capacities, including six deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2010.  

In 2001, Bowser earned an associate of science and a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical studies from Kent State. He earned a master's degree in aeronautical science in 2010 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is working on his doctorate degree through an education studies program at Oklahoma State University. 

During his career, Bowser also worked as an air traffic controller for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in the Cleveland Center in Oberlin, Ohio, from 2010 to 2015. When Bowser retired from the Air Force in 2016, he became involved with the Props and Pistons Festival. The festival started at Wadsworth Airport in 2013 and moved to Akron-Fulton in Summit County in 2017. 

“When we moved over there, we saw the opportunity to work with inner-city, at risk and underprivileged kids. So that became our secondary focus of the air show. The primary partner is Akron’s National Inventors Hall of Fame Stem School.”
Props and Pistons Provides Career Opportunities 

The Props and Pistons Festival is not only an aviation event, but it also serves as a point of contact for employers who are looking for aviation majors to fill entry level jobs. Bowser said one company, Castle Aviation, located at Akron-Canton Airport provides airplanes to the show every year, but the company treats the event as a hiring event. 

“They prescreen applicants ahead of time,” Bowser said. “They'll have them come out and sit in one of their airplanes and interview them at the airport. And every year they hire a handful of people, and it seems like they work out.” 

Caleb Sowash, a senior at the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, handles social media for the Props and Pistons Festival. He has volunteered with the festival since 2020 to pay forward his knowledge and love of aviation. 

“I first became involved to learn more about the aviation industry, but have continued my involvement to help with our main mission, teaching the youth about the amazing opportunities that STEM and aviation have to offer,” Sowash said. “This is the most important part of what we do and is my biggest motivator.” 

To learn more about the Props and Pistons Festival or to volunteer go to 

POSTED: Thursday, July 13, 2023 10:54 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2023 09:20 AM
April McClellan-Copeland