Academy Students Learn from UCONN Engineering Ambassadors

The students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School have had two outstanding learning opportunities with the UCONN Engineering Ambassadors this month. The Engineering Ambassadors is a club at the University of Connecticut at Storrs composed of undergraduate students majoring in engineering. Their mission statement says: “Engineering Ambassadors engage a diverse student population, our university and the greater community in activities that inspire them to explore a variety of creative solutions to the problems facing humanity. We develop ourselves as passionate engineers of the future with the power to express engineering concepts through fundamentals of science and mathematics.” I contacted the Ambassadors last spring, and they were very accommodating and helpful in setting up a visit to our school and a field trip to UCONN’s Storrs campus.

During the visit to our school on November 2nd, two different teams presented topics relating to aerospace, then led a hands-on challenge for the students to carry out. In the first presentation, we learned about the Hubble Space Telescope, then the students tried to align several mirrors to reflect a laser beam onto a target, imitating the process used to direct and focus a telescope image. In the second presentation, students learned about rocket propulsion, then made paper rockets launched from a straw to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law of motion. In both cases, the presenters also took time to explain their backgrounds, how they liked being engineering students at UCONN, and what it took to major in this demanding field. These photos are from their visit:


On November 20th, all of the academy students went on a field trip to UCONN Storrs where the Engineering Ambassadors gave us a series of presentations, a panel discussion with several engineering students, a tour of the engineering facilities, and a hands-on challenge activity. Additionally, our intern, Kate Morehead, also a student at UCONN, led a tour of the business school buildings, library, student union, Gampel Pavilion, and Co-Op bookstore and gift shop. We also did a photo stop at the statue of Jonathan, the Husky, UCONN’s mascot, where students rubbed his nose for good luck. Here are some photos from the field trip:

Academy Students and Intern Kate Morehead by Jonathan Husky Statue
Academy Students and Intern Kate Morehead by Jonathan Husky Statue
Engineering Presentation
Engineering Presentation
Discussion with Engineering Student Panel
Discussion with Engineering Student Panel
Working on Egg Drop Challenge (3 photos)
Working on Egg Drop Challenge (3 photos)

Eggdrop UCONN 2Eggdrop UCONN 3

Fun at Lunch (2 photos)
Fun at Lunch (2 photos)

Lunch UCONN 2

The best testimony on how the students liked the trip comes from them, so here are some quotes I have gotten in the post-field trip reflections I assigned:

“The UCONN field trip was awesome, especially when we learned about the

different engineering concentrations. One of the concentrations I enjoyed

learning about was the Civil Engineering concentration because  it was cool

to see the shapes they used in order to  build modern day bridges and

stuff. Another concentration that I liked learning about was mechanical

engineering. This interest me because one of the concentrations was

aerospace engineering which I would like to do in the future. Lastly, I

enjoyed learning about the chemical engineer concentration because that is

what my uncle does, so it was cool to see what he studied when he went to


“The UCONN field trip was very fun, we toured the campus and learned about

all kind of different clubs. UCONN is one college I might consider going to

because they have such a huge variety of things to do. You could play

sports, join the engineering school, and many more. With the engineering

ambassadors we learned about the different kind of engineering. My

favorites were the Civil and Mechanical engineering. Overall I think that

UCONN is a great school.”

“The trip to UCONN was so fun. I believe that was the BEST field trip I

ever went on. But one thing I learned was how important time management is

in college. Like I didn’t realize that no one will tell you when to eat.

You need to balance your free time and school work. Also your homework

could last up to an entire week, but still be somewhat easy. Which is cool

because you could have so much free time and still do your homework. Also I

learned that you have so many resources to help you with anything. Its

ridiculous  how much help you can get there. I think UCONN is a great

school in a whole. You have a great education, sport teams, and a great

community of people to stand by you.”


Industry Partnerships Strengthen Academy

GKN Aerospace Presents Jet Engine Photograph to Academy
GKN Aerospace Presents Jet Engine Photograph to Academy

The Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School has begun to build partnerships with the aerospace industry in our area. Newington is in the middle of “Aerospace Alley,” one of the most concentrated areas of aerospace firms in the world. Aerospace is the leading export industry for Connecticut and for the United States, and it offers a bright future for people seeking careers.

One nearby aerospace company is GKN Aerospace, located a few blocks from our school. GKN is a global corporation, and the plant in Newington makes jet fan casings, requiring a highly precise manufacturing process. This makes GKN a major supplier for jet engine manufacturers, including GE and Pratt & Whitney, two other Connecticut aerospace firms. On November 12, Bruce Fiedorowicz, Director of Sales for GKN Engine Systems, and Sue Porter, Director of Human Resources, came to the academy and presented a large photograph of a jet engine with a plaque signifying the start of a partnership between our academy and their company. They also spoke to the students about what GKN does and how the aerospace industry needs STEM graduates. The academy students then gave them a full tour of our facility. Mr. Fiedorowicz emailed me later on and in describing his visit he said, “Impressive is a complete understatement.” In January, we plan to tour the GKN plant and talk with engineers and technicians there. All in all, it is the start of a productive partnership.

New Intern at Academy Mentors Students in STEM and CyberPatriot

Kate Morehead, Intern with Academy of Aerospace and Engineering
Kate Morehead, Intern with Academy of Aerospace and Engineering

The Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School has a new intern, Katherine “Kate” Morehead. Kate was an outstanding physics student of mine at Ridgefield High School a few years ago. In addition to having exceptional math and science skills, she earned the Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education Excellence Award along with her class by conducting several science experiments and activities related to aerospace. Now she is a junior at the University of Connecticut at Storrs majoring in marketing in the School of Business with a minor in statistics. She and I reconnected this past summer through LinkedIn where I saw she was an intern with FireEye, a Silicon Valley company focused on cyber security services. I was looking for a mentor for a cyber security STEM competition, CyberPatriot, and I contacted Kate to see if she could help us. Not only did she enthusiastically agree to help, but she offered to come to the academy every Friday to work with the students. I worked with the Newington Public Schools personnel office, and we made Kate into an official intern. The plan is for her to come in every Friday when the students have academy classes, at least through Kate’s fall semester. She has worked with the students almost every Friday since October 2nd on CyberPatriot, and she has jumped in and helped with all of their other classes as a STEM tutor. She is a welcome addition to the academy as she promotes a love of learning that is motivating and encouraging for the students.