Physics of Flying project brings 700+ to Wright-Patt booth at The Big Hoopla's STEM Challenge

  • Published
  • By Gina Marie Giardina
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
DAYTON, Ohio (AFRL) – Nearly 700 children and their families visited the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Educational Outreach booth at The Big Hoopla’s STEM Challenge March 13 at the Dayton Convention Center.
The children, age’s kindergarten thru eighth grade, were given model airplane kits as well as paper clips, clay, clips, and paper, with the challenge of building an airplane that could fly for 12 seconds.
“The children can add different weights to see if that helps them fly longer. For this project, we’ll time their flights to see if they can fly for 12 seconds, which was the length of time the Wright Brothers first flew in Kittyhawk, North Carolina,” said Daniel Andrews, Wright-Patterson AFB Outreach division chief. “If one way doesn’t work, we encourage them to go back to the drawing board and keep trying to improve their time.”
Andrews explained that encouraging children to follow their interests and imaginations with STEM at the foundation is a key initiative of AFRL, the organization that manages the outreach office. Not only will it develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, but also allow for fresh ideas and innovation for future problems that need to be solved.
The educational outreach program has many K-12 STEM programs available such as Wizards of Wright, Department of Defense STARBASE Wright-Patt, and several FIRST Programs, among others.
One visitor who stopped by the booth was The Big Hoopla’s STEM Teacher of the Year, Garra Myers, a science teacher at St. Peters in Huber Heights, Ohio. She explained how she uses the many resources from Wizards of Wright to supplement her lesson plans to build her students’ interest in STEM.
“I use [Wizards of Wright] from Wright-Patt all the time,” said Myers. “When a kit comes in and students see it in the lobby, they get so excited. They absolutely love the kits.”
She went on to explain how the outreach team has been accommodating when she needed certain projects, and that she’s been able to keep the kits longer when possible. One of her students’ favorite projects of the school year, which she saves for May when summer fever sets in, is to build and test model rollercoasters to learn about physics.
“Some of my students who really struggled to stay focused last year, especially at the end of the school year, had a great time with the rollercoaster project,” she said. “It was touching to see how engaged they were.”
During the kickoff to the event, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., Air Force Materiel Command commander, discussed his interest in both basketball and in STEM, the latter which led him to be an engineer for the Air Force. He spoke to the young audience about a few careers in the Air Force centered around science, technology, engineering and math, and the importance of a strong STEM foundation. He stressed that while these fields are important to the Air Force, they are important to industry as well.
“So to the youngsters out there, please study the math. We need you. We need you to be smart in these fields because it will give you a better life in the long run, and also to help us and everyone else,” said Bunch.
The Big Hoopla STEM Challenge was one of several events centered around the NCAA First Four men’s basketball tournament, which tips off the evening of March 15.
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