Academy CyberPatriot Teams Place 1st and 2nd in State Middle School Division

Today we found out that the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering students on the two CyberPatriot teams we fielded placed first and second overall in the Middle School Division State Round. In other words, out of the Connecticut middle school teams competing in CyberPatriot, we were the best and second best overall. Our teams were named as those in a military exercise are named: Blue Team, which ended up being #1, and Red Team, which came in #2. Newington Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. William C. Collins, came and presented the award certificates to both teams. Here are photos:

Superintendent Collins presents awards to Academy of Aerospace and Engineering CyberPatriot teams (Blue Team on left and Red Team on right)
Blue Team Captain (left) and Red Team Captain (right) accept awards from Superintendent Collins

What is CyberPatriot?

“CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program. There are three main programs within CyberPatriot: the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, AFA CyberCamps and the Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative. CyberPatriot was conceived by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.” (Source:

For the Middle School Division of CyberPatriot, the teams competed in three rounds–Round One in November, Round Two in December, and the State Round in January. The top teams out of these three rounds advanced to the semifinals in February. We did not make this cut, but we still did very well overall. Considering this is our second season competing, we have grown considerably in knowledge and skill in cyber security, so we plan to do even better next year. As the leader of a STEM academy, I have found CyberPatriot to be an outstanding experience. The students not only learned about cyber security in-depth, but they also learned how to compete in an online setting with thousands of other competitors.

Here are the award certificates:


Learning Real-World Skills through Invention Convention

All fifty students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering will be entering Invention Convention this year. Invention Convention is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) competition where an elementary or middle school student designs, builds, and presents an original invention to a panel of judges. This process encourages student achievement in so many real-world skills–from using the engineering design process to communicating ideas clearly. Invention Convention has different levels of competition, beginning with a local event, then a regional event, then a state event, then finally a national event. Students who are scored in the top tier of competing inventors progress to the next higher level. For the Academy students, we will hold our local Newington Invention Convention on March 16th, 3:30 to 5:30 PM, in the Academy facility. Our generous corporate mentors at GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures will serve as judges. Families are welcome to come and watch. Here are some photos of the Academy 8th graders hard at work on their invention designs last week:



Hands-On Science Lab About Tissues – Dissecting Chicken Wings

This week in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, Ms. Garavel’s 7th grade science class began studying about various types of tissue, especially those that exist in the human body. The students had been studying cells, so now they were learning how cells connect to form tissues. Rather than just read about skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones, the students got a chance to examine these in a hands-on science lab dissecting chicken wings. To prepare for the lab, the students had homework the night prior to watch a video on how to dissect a chicken wing, then to prepare an experimental procedure. Ms. Garavel did not let them start the lab until they showed they had done this work. The wings were raw, so the class also followed good safety and hygiene practices to prevent spreading any possible germs. When they got their chicken wings, the students worked in pairs to carefully dissect them to identify all the different types of tissue. The next day, the class discussed what they had seen and wrote up their lab reports. This is a fairly simple lab, though it requires some good preparation, and the students enjoy it and learn well from it. Here are photos of the students busy dissecting:

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Mentoring is Key to a Good STEM Program

At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, the 8th graders just finished the second part of a three-part STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) competition called the Connecticut Aerospace Engineering Challenge. The competition has the students take on the role of an engineering team working for an airline company that is re-engining its fleet with new Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines. The first part of the competition required the students to research the airline’s aircraft and these new engines, then pick the appropriate models of new engines for the aircraft. The second part of the competition has the students respond to a CEO inquiry whether the old jet engines could be recycled as wind turbines or hydroelectric turbines. The students could do a lab experiment, a simulation, and/or a thought experiment to conduct this feasibility study. Now for the average 8th grader, this would be a tall task! My students are an exceptional group, but they needed help to get some perspective on how to approach this problem. That’s where mentors are invaluable. We have forged a partnership with two aerospace firms in our town, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures. Both companies have provided mentors to help the students in this competition. The students are in four teams, and two mentors from GKN and two from PCX come in about once per month to guide the students and give them feedback. Today the teams all presented their final plans to the mentors, and they got outstanding feedback. Additionally, GKN Aerospace’s team, led by Mr. Bruce Fiedorowicz, Director of Sales, gave our academy a large model of a GeeBee air racer, plus two classic air racing posters. Here are photos:

Bruce Fiedorowicz, GKN Aerospace, Mentors Team One
Chris Aldrich, PCX Aerostructures, Mentors Team Two
Gerry Zimmerman, PCX Aerostructures, Mentors Team Three
Tiedah Evans, GKN Aerospace, Mentors Team Four


GKN Aerospace Donates Model and Posters to Academy