Up, Up, & Away: Teachers Learn To Build Electric Cargo Planes

Approximately forty Okaloosa and Santa Rosa County teachers recently spent an exciting, fun-filled day at the Okaloosa STEMM Center for an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Educator Academy workshop which focused on learning the STEM strategies involved in designing and constructing an electric engine powered cargo airplane. The Okaloosa STEMM Center partnered with the AIAA to host the AIAA Educator Academy.

AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. With more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and nearly 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense.

The AIAA’s K-12 STEM Outreach Program has developed three STEM modules: a Mars rover, a weather balloon, and an electric cargo airplane. The workshop held this past Saturday was the electric cargo airplane module.

Workshop instructors explained each step of the engineering process to enable the teachers to design and shape a wing and airplane empennage (tail) from sections of foam insulation material. After forming their wings, constructing the airplane, and installing an electric engine, an electric pole power was used to test the airplanes.  

Materials for the workshop were purchased in part by the AIAA and by a DoD grant written by the Director of the Okaloosa STEMM Center, Rick Soria. There was no cost for the teachers to attend.

“Teachers are looking for innovative hands-on STEM workshops,” said Soria. “They understand the importance of using the lessons from workshops like this one to enhance their repertoire of STEM strategies to make daily classroom instruction more applicable and engaging for their students.”

Soria went on to say, “We are delighted to partner with the AIAA K-12 Outreach Programs. Our teachers and students are worth the work and expense it took to put on this workshop.”

Local Northwest Florida Chapter AIAA members on hand at the workshop included Ken Blackburn and Dr. John Fay. Soria is also a member of the local AIAA NW Florida chapter and the national STEM K-12 Outreach Programs committee.    

The teachers became students as they listened to AIAA instructors, followed instructions, built aircrafts and cheered the flights of each airplane as they were test flown.

The two AIAA instructors, Paul Weidorn, from Wilde Lake Park High School in Columbia, Maryland, and Tom Milnes, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, Maryland, took teachers through the steps they need to present to their students to help them build a successful electric powered cargo airplane. A curriculum guide was provided to each teacher to use in their classrooms.

Ken Blackburn, an aeronautical engineer and the Guinness World Record holder for longest paper airplane flight duration (27.6 seconds), addressed the attendees with tips and suggestions for helping them build the electric powered airplanes. AIAA provided each teacher with a complimentary copy of Blackburn’s World Record Airplane book, which Blackburn happily autographed. To learn more about Blackburn, please visit http://www.paperplane.org/about.

The national AIAA K-12 STEM Outreach Programs Manager, Lisa Bacon, was also on hand to assist the instructors and teachers. According to Bacon, the AIAA is encouraged by the efforts of the Okaloosa STEMM Center.

“We need to reach teachers and students with STEM education,” said Bacon. “Activities like the STEMM Center help us meet those goals.”

Bacon says she expects the partnership to benefit both AIAA STEM goals and Okaloosa County teachers and students.

“Okaloosa County and the STEMM Center in particular are great examples of what can be done through the partnership of public education, a professional organization (like AIAA) and community sponsors like Cox Cable and The Boeing Company,” continued Bacon.

Bacon applauded the Okaloosa School Board and Superintendent for their vision to implement the STEMM Center to prepare America’s future engineering workforce.

“With only three AIAA STEM Academies funded for the year, Okaloosa County and the Okaloosa STEM Center were the natural choice for one of the academies,” said Bacon. “We hope Okaloosa will help us refine the workshop curricular materials. Our goal is to make the Academy curriculum relevant, portable and available to other schools across America.”

Bacon and the AIAA instructors met briefly with Superintendent Dr. Alexis Tibbetts and Science Specialist Shawnea Tallman who were on hand for the workshop. Later they toured the STEMM Center.

Bacon extended an invitation to the STEMM Center to make a presentation outlining their STEM and Academy activities at the AIAA STEM K-12 Outreach Committee annual face-to-face meeting in Dallas, Texas.

As part of the workshop registration, each teacher was granted a lifetime AIAA Educator Associate membership. The membership entitles teachers to the periodic AIAA electronic newsletter and eligibility to apply for a classroom grant of $250. Any teacher who wishes to become AIAA Educator Associate member and become eligible for the grant may enroll (at no cost) by going to www.AIAA.org and registering.

A copy of the workshop curricular materials can downloaded from https://www.aiaa.org/EducatorAcademy2012/.

“The Okaloosa STEMM Center has the tools and power pole on hand for loan to workshop attendees who would like to demonstrate the aircraft they built for their students,” said Soria. “Additionally, the STEMM Center Engineers For America (EFA) Center has scheduled a one-day EFA Lead Teacher Training workshop on October 26, 2012 at the STEMM Center. EFA Lead Teacher training prepares teachers to use the twenty-seven STEM experiments at the STEMM Center. Teachers who complete the training will be provided transportation for their students and the cost of a substitute if they schedule a trip to the Center to conduct the STEM experiments. All experiments are aligned to FL DOE NGSSS.”

Please email Suzzanne Barber barbers@mail.okaloosa.k12.fl.us for additional information.

Visit Facebook at www.Facebook.com/OkaloosaCountySchoolDistrict to view the complete photo gallery from this exciting event.