"Man, that's a plane rudder! I would do anything for a chance to build something like that!" This was a student response when we returned from Zenith Aircraft Company with a newly built plane rudder, the exact same rudder we will give some of our students the opportunity to build this summer. We showed the new rudder off to all of our classes in an effort to get interest in the summer camp, and it couldn't have gone any better. A lot of the time, our students' minds are on anything but science, but when they saw an actual piece of an airplane it was all they could talk about. This project is already inspiring desire and passion in our student body and we want to build off that spark.
Blytheville High School is a Title 1 school, meaning our students are classified as at-risk and have an increased probability of failing due to poverty and disadvantages. To combat this, we have recently transitioned into a New Tech School with an emphasis on project-based learning. Our students love this hands on style and feel elated when they've successfully solved a hard problem or discovered something new. They are naturally curious, funny, and can be optimistic beyond belief.
If you came to our school and saw our students, you would never imagine the horrible things they have seen. Our students go home and deal with the same problems that are chronically seen throughout the Mississippi Delta: absent fathers, single mothers, teenage pregnancy, violent fights, family members falling victim to drug addiction, and losing siblings and friends to gang violence. We have used these truths as our motivation to build this project. We want to give our students the opportunity to realize that they are not defined or held back by their socioeconomic status.
Project Flight is a three week summer STEM camp (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Blytheville High School in Northeast Arkansas. During this time our students will be building an experimental aircraft, specifically a Zenith CH650, and participating in class on applied aviation skills. This project will give students the success and confidence to pursue jobs in the aviation industry or other STEM fields of their choice. During the camp, three teams of ten students each will work on building specific parts of the plane. When they aren't working directly on the plane, they will be in a class learning the physics and engineering behind flight and how to begin a career in aviation.
Building an airplane teaches skills our students under any other circumstances would never have a chance to get. Students will learn what measurement tolerances are and how to work with them. They will learn to read plans, transfer designs and lay out parts as well as the skills of production sequencing and documentation. Our students will walk away from this project with the skills and attributes to collaborate successfully and inspire as a leader in our community.