New Academy Facility Almost Ready–Plus Other News

Artist Rendering of Academy of Aerospace and Engineering
Artist Rendering of Academy of Aerospace and Engineering

The Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School is about to begin its next phase when we move into our new facility. The contractors are working hard so that we have our last day in our temporary classroom on Friday, October 2nd and begin teaching and learning in our new rooms on Monday, October 5th. We will go from operating in a crowded science lab room to having a dedicated science classroom and lab, a math classroom, and an aerospace lab. The aerospace lab area will include a whole wall of flight simulators with study tables nearby, a collaboration area for brainstorming and discussion, and a makerspace for creative engineering design. The artist’s rendering gives a good idea what it will be like. We will take several days to fully settle in, then on October 22nd, 6:00 to 8:00 PM, the Superintendent of Newington Public Schools is hosting a grand opening ceremony and open house at the new facility for students, their families, teachers and mentors, and local dignitaries.

Academy Induction Ceremony
Academy Induction Ceremony

In other news, we had an outstanding Academy Induction Ceremony on the night of the Wallace School open house. Almost all students and their families were able to attend. This ceremony signified that the new students were truly members now of a new, dynamic learning community. To prove the point, they showed their families how to fly the flight simulators.

Finally, we had another guest speaker on September 18th, Mr. Bob Spaulding, President of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 27 from Meriden-Markham Airport. He explained to the students what the EAA does and what it offers to youth. The students were interested in the Young Eagles program where EAA pilots take up youth for free flights. The next local Young Eagles event is on Saturday, October 17, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Meriden-Markham Airport, 213 Evansville Avenue, Meriden, CT 06451. Students interested in flying should show up at the airport at 9:00 AM with their parents/guardians–parents/guardians must sign permission forms on the day of the event before a student is allowed to fly. Happy flying!

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Aerospace Youth Organizations – Is One Right for You?

CAP Cadet Gets Orientation Flight
CAP Cadet Gets Orientation Flight

This week, the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering hosted its first guest speaker, Captain April Krason of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). As she explained, CAP is the official auxiliary of the US Air Force. It was founded at the start of World War II as a volunteer organization of flyers who helped patrol the US coastline for German submarines. Since then, it has evolved into an important agency in US homeland security. It also has a robust youth program, or “Cadet” program, open to young men and women between 12 and 18 years old. From the CAP website: “The CAP Cadet Program is a year-round program where Cadets fly, learn to lead, hike, camp, get in shape, and push themselves to new limits. If you’re dreaming about a career in aviation, space, or the military, CAP’s Cadet Program is for you. Cadets meet 2 hours per week and one Saturday per month, on average, and also have opportunities to attend leadership encampments, career academies, and other activities during the summer.” She explained that CAP Cadets earn up to ten free orientation flights. I also know that they tend to earn scholarships and get selected for excellent colleges because of their demonstrated leadership, citizenship, and community service. For students with an interest in aerospace, especially in flying, this youth program may be the right one for you. Connecticut has several CAP units, three of which are close to Newington:

In an earlier post, I described the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), focusing on Chapter 27 at Meriden-Markham Airport in Meriden, Connecticut. The EAA’s mission is “To grow participation in aviation by promoting the ‘Spirit of Aviation,’” while their vision is “A vibrant and growing aviation community.” To carry out this mission and vision, EAA sponsors some youth activities, including the Young Eagles program where EAA pilots spend a day giving free orientation flights in their aircraft to children ages 8 to 17. The purpose is to trigger an interest in aviation that young people will carry forward in life. So far, the EAA has given about 2 million orientation flights to children nationwide since the start of Young Eagles in 1992. The next Young Eagles day for EAA Chapter 27 is Saturday, October 17th (moved from October 10th), 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, at Meriden-Markham Airport. Click HERE for more information and any updates on this event, as well as the point of contact. The EAA is a great organization for anyone interested in aviation, regardless of whether you are a pilot or own an aircraft. One project the Meriden squadron has started is to have local youth help build an airplane. I have invited the EAA Chapter 27 president, Mr. Bob Spaulding, to speak to our students on September 18th so they can learn more about these opportunities.

Finally, for those interested in flying radio-controlled (R/C) aircraft program, I have invited the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) local chapter, the Central Connecticut R/C Club’s president, Mr. Damon Rosenthal, to speak to our students on October 9th. Earlier this summer, I posted how I went to the club’s “Fun Fly Day” at their field at 100 Meadow Road, Farmington, Connecticut. I watched club members, including several youth members, fly their aircraft–everything from 1/4 scale replicas of old warbirds to small, simple airplanes made from foam board. The club also oversees proper flight operations of “drones,” the latest craze in remotely piloted aircraft. All model flying is done following AMA’s safety rules. Beginners take lessons and get checked out by an instructor before they can operate their aircraft on the field. For anyone who has always wanted to fly, this is an alternative way to do it, and do it right.

DISCLAIMER: As the teacher in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, I am providing this information for my students and their parents/guardians to use as they see fit. None of these organizations are being officially endorsed or pushed by Newington Public Schools. Participation in any of these programs is completely up to the students and their parents/guardians, and there is no requirement by the Academy for a student to join any of them. All of this being said, I think these organizations offer many opportunities, and I hope you find this information useful.

Preparing for STEM Competitions

As we finish the second week of school at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School, students are learning the Engineering Design Process (borrowed from NASA), and how it compares to the Scientific Method (source: www.makeitsolar.com). Both of these are problem solving methods, but each is more appropriate in certain situations. We reviewed the scientific method first, since students have learned that in the past. We did a lab using a computer simulation to determine the density of water, and we practiced writing a full lab report. Today, we focused on the engineering design process, and the students had a couple of engineering design challenges. One involved making a FPG-9 (foam plate glider, 9-inch) and experimenting with its control surfaces. Here are some photos:

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These type of activities are a lot of fun for the students and me – but they also serve a purpose. Students learn to work in teams and quickly develop, test, and refine solutions. They also learn how to meet deadlines, as some design challenges have strict time constraints. Students must present their ideas, as well, and defend their choice of design. All of these are life skills.

We will be developing these life skills much more fully by participating in regional and state-level STEM competitions. Each competition will require the students to organize themselves, schedule practices, determine roles of team members, and then practice for the competition. Here are competitions I am planning to introduce to the students so that they can plan to compete:

I will be seeking mentors for many of these contests – please contact me if you can help. Practices will be every other Friday afternoon – see the Academy annual calendar for the dates.