Four Academy Students Selected for National Invention Convention

Four students from the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering will be going to the National Invention Convention/Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) in Alexandria, Virginia later this week. These students have won at each level of Invention Convention and earned a spot at the national competition. First they competed and won in our local Newington Invention Convention on March 16th, then they competed and won at the Central Regional Invention Convention on April 8th, then they competed and won at the Connecticut Invention Convention on April 29th. Statistically, the academy would have been lucky to have one student make the national competition, so to have four going is extraordinary. Over 17,000 students from Connecticut competed in Invention Convention this year, and about 100 of those will go to NICEE, or about 0.6%. We had all fifty academy students compete in our local Newington Invention Convention, and we have four students going to NICEE, or 8% of our original competitors – this means we had over ten times as many students make the nationals as the average school.

Here are our national competitors and the awards they got at the state-level Connecticut Invention Convention on April 29th:

7th grade Academy winners:
Jasmine Barber – Sno Away (rolling snow shovel that avoids back strain) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair Award.

Shiven Patel – Stop, Drop, and Spot (beacon to help find fire extinguisher in smokey room) – Recognized Inventor Award and Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering Award.


8th grade Academy winners:
Alek Jorge – Smart Helm (fireman’s helmet with sensors and transmitter to alert incident commander if fireman is hurt or down) – Recognized Inventor Award, Connecticut Fire Marshals Fire Safety Award, and Angel Investors Forum/Connecticut Venture Group Young Entrepreneur Award (this award connects Alek with potential investors in his invention).

Olivia Mullings – Temp Safe (alarm system if baby or pet is left in hot car) – Frank J. Link Family Award for Innovation in Technology Award, Boehringer Ingelheim Cares Foundation Life Sciences Award, United Technologies Corporation Moving the World Forward Award, and the McCormick, Paulding, and Huber Patent Award (this award was given last and highlighted as the top award which provides about $10,000 in legal services for a patent search and application).

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Ms. Garavel and I wish these students the best of luck at NICEE later this week!

The Ultimate Authentic Assessment: Air Navigation in Action

The 8th graders in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering are learning about air navigation as part of their aerospace elective, Principles of Aerospace Science II. Air navigation is a complex subject, so we started with the simplest form of navigation, pilotage, or navigating by landmarks and reading a chart. We then learned deductive (“dead”) reckoning, or plotting a course, figuring the distance and speed, then computing the time to travel each leg. We learned how latitude and longitude are measured, and how to find them using celestial references and time. Then we practiced fixing our position with very high frequency omnidirectional range (VOR) radio navigation aids and using celestial references. At each stage, the students started with a lecture or short exercise, then they flew whatever we were studying on the flight simulator. As we studied these topics, we also looked at historic events in navigation, such as how celestial navigation developed, how longitude was finally found using accurate clocks, and how Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic using only dead reckoning and pilotage. We also discussed modern navigation systems, primarily the flight management system (FMS) and GPS navigation. However, since the modern systems have essentially automated navigation, we practiced the old methods to understand the basics of air navigation. The entire unit blended well with our science unit on astronomy and our geometry unit on circles.

As a final assessment, rather than give the students a traditional test, I gave them a task to fly a 100-mile route that included three turn points of 45 degrees or more heading change. They had to create a flight plan, plot the entire route on an air chart, then fly the route in real time using pilotage and dead reckoning throughout the flight. They were also required to fix their position at each turn point using two VOR radials. The students flew in pairs (and one group of three), alternating who flew and who navigated. This task was what educators call an authentic assessment, as it required students to complete a real-world, or authentic, task. Our STEMPilot Edustation flight simulators were ideal for this unit, as the students got to fly what they were learning both during lessons and for the authentic assessment.

Here are photos of the students flying their assessment, and some quotes from students on the end of unit reflection:


To start off, this unit in particular was my favorite by far this whole year. It combined history and flying as well as math into this unit with the history of navigation as well as the flight planning and that’s what I liked about the project. Not to mention that we got to spend 2 class periods flying on the simulators and flying our planned routes. That experience is something that I had not experienced before with the other missions and assignments that we did on the simulators. Touching up on the history portion, I enjoyed learning about the hardships that people in the passed faced when trying to find longitude and latitude to navigate around the world. I thought that the way this unit was walked though, was excellent because it was easy to digest as a student, but also brought some challenges to test your knowledge on what you learned and prove what you learned. I would not change a thing about how this unit was taught and I’m glad that we ended our class’ experience with the principles of aerospace science class with such a great unit. Overall, this was a great unit.

This unit was one of the more favored among the students of the class from what I have heard, and I personally agree because of how interactive and intuitive the assignments were, how history developed technologies we were able to use to navigate, and how the assessment of what we learned was set up and done to be more interactive and timely than a written quiz. This unit was taught very well, starting with the basics of navigation (different forms, ig.) and then going to the history of those basics and the advances of them, along the way adding them to a flight plan like a real pilot would do. The way that we proved our knowledge about this unit was honestly fun and also took some skill that I never thought I’d need as a student or in a career, but really it may come in handy in the future if I look forward to flying for a career or even getting a license. This was a perfect application for aerospace science, and I do not believe a thing should be changed about the unit.

To begin I felt that this Principles of Aerospace Science II unit was my favorite. In the beginning I didn’t think that I would like it that much. But that changed quickly. I really liked how we went on the simulators almost every single day. Also I like how we didn’t do the same thing everyday. Some days were lectures, some were simulators, some were flight planning, also some days we used computer websites, and lastly other days we watched videos. My favorite assignment from this unit was by far the final one. In this we planned a 100 nautical mile route. Then from their we found VOR’s, latitude, longitude, time, distance, heading, and other stuff like that. Then when we flew it using VOR and Dead Reckoning it was really fun and I learned a lot from it. Something that made this class unique from others was that it also covered a history perspective of it. That was very interesting learning about Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic. Overall this was my favorite unit by far and there isn’t much to improve it.

Overall, I found this unit fun and interesting, mostly because of what we learned. In this unit, we learned about different types of navigation, including dead reckoning and NAVAIDS, as well as GPS and FMS. After learning about these ways of air navigation, went through a 100 nautical mile trip around New York State, where we had to plan it with the headings and lengths of the legs, then fly it on the flight simulators accordingly. I found this the most interesting (along with probably everyone else in the class) because we HAD to apply everything we learned throughout the unit to navigate around New York. This was one of the most fun units in the academy because we had to practice staying on route and keeping correct heading and altitudes in most weather conditions.

Integrated STEM Project: Designing Sundials

The 8th grade students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering have just completed an integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project where each crew (student groups of four to five students) designed a sundial, built a model of it, tested it, and presented it to Mr. Dias, our current Assistant Principal and next year’s Principal at John Wallace Middle School. The requirement given to the students was to design a sundial with an aerospace theme that could be built on the school grounds outside the academy. Mr. Dias saw all the designs presented, then he chose what he believed was the best design that would complement our school. The winning design, by Crew 4, uses a person as the gnomon (the part of the sundial that casts the shadow) and directs the person to stand on different places on the sundial, depending on the time of year, in order to accurately depict the time year-round.

So what makes this an “integrated project?” Integration means applying what is learned in one class to a problem in another class, or connecting concepts across two or more classes. We do this type of learning every day in the academy, and this project was especially integrated. The 8th graders have learned about the Solar System and how the Sun, Moon and planets move across the sky from an Earth observer’s point of view–they applied this knowledge to the sundial since the Sun changes its position in the sky not only hour to hour, but also day to day. The students used astronomy software to plot the Sun’s position every hour from 6:00AM to 6:00PM on both the summer and winter solstices and on the spring and fall equinoxes. They used this information to design the hour lines on their sundials. Drawing these lines required knowledge of circles, which is the unit in geometry we are studying–so students applied their knowledge of central angles and angular motion to design the sundial’s face with its hour lines. Half of the students are also studying air navigation, including latitude and longitude, so they applied that knowledge to the problem of designing the gnomon whose angle depends on latitude. Finally, the students applied what they have learned the past two years in the academy about the engineering design process and presentation skills. All of these connections made this a highly integrated project.

Here are photos of each crew with models of their sundials:

Crew 1’s design would be on a pillar and is based on the academy logo with the gear as the sundial’s base and the red arrow as  the gnomon.
Crew 2’s design would be on a pillar and has an aerospace theme with celestial objects marking each hour.
Crew 3’s design uses the current academy sign, shaped like an aircraft tail, as the gnomon, then rocks in the ground would mark the hour lines.
WINNING DESIGN – Crew 4’s design would be laid out in the ground with pavers and requires a person to stand as gnomon on the appropriate month to cast a shadow and give the time.
Crew 5’s design is a large cement slab sundial in the ground with a gnomon shaped like an aircraft wing.
Crew 6’s design would be on a pillar and has interchangeable disks for each season  so that the sundial is accurate year round.