A Science Teacher And State of Kentucky Team Up To Promote
by ANN Correspondent Maxine Scheer
On Monday, ANN examined efforts by the
Thomas Wathen Foundation to extol the virtues
of flight to students. Our next story is about the role of a
teacher (with great networking skills) as a champion for aviation
Dr. William "Tim" Smith, Ed.D from the Frankfort Independent
Schools in Kentucky leads an aggressive aviation program which
encourages students to pursue careers throughout the aviation
spectrum and structured a program where students earn dual college
and high school credit. Tim exudes enthusiasm for aviation as a
context for students to learn about science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
"Lots of kids have a fear of aviation" said Smith (above), "when
they assume the role [of the pilot, mechanic, or engineer] then
they can make the emotional connection and motivation kicks
The Wathen Foundation, along with support from Build A Plane,
donated to the Frankfort program an Aeronca 60-TF and brought it to
AirVenture. They called it "Aeronca Kids Part Two." Part one
involved a group of Flabob students who restored a 1941 Aeronca
65-CA and flew it to Oshkosh in 2005.
The vintage airframe of the Aeronca 60-TF was featured in front
of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) exhibit.
The GAMA location brought significant foot traffic and
opportunities to meet the students to talk about their five-year
project to rebuild and fly the vintage aircraft.
"The Build A Plane concept is a great idea given the industry
needs," said Peter Bunce, President and CEO of GAMA. "The industry
needs to find more Tim’s and recognize that we need to
inspire children with aviation at an early age".
Missouri Congressman Sam Graves stopped and along with many
other EAA-ers, offered to donate parts to Frankfort’s Aeronca
restoration program. "The response has been great", said Smith,
"The kids got to meet a Congressman. Other passersby included
someone who had an Aeronca fuselage waiting to be picked over and,
serendipitously, stored in a garage just 10 minutes from
While at AirVenture, the Frankfort students learned about the
airplane structure and were mentored in a number of workshops. ANN
stopped by to visit while Andy Pivan, of Lincoln Electric, was
giving them a hands-on introduction to welding.
Andy described how there is a real shortage of welders and that
most guidance counselors don’t push the skill to students.
"It’s unfortunate", said Andy, "a young person can work as a
welder while going to college and earn $20 an hour versus flipping
burgers for [minimum wage]."
Lincoln Electric supports mentoring programs and regularly
visits schools to introduce welding to high school students.
Dr. Smith is very supportive of his students and proud of the
leadership role the Kentucky Department of Aviation (part of the
State Department of Transportation) and Kentucky Department of
Education are taking in supporting and expanding the Frankfort
Aviation Academy as a model program.
"The Department of Aviation pays for summer workshops (Kentucky
Aviation Teacher Institute) where nearly 125 teachers come to learn
about the concepts of using aviation as a teaching tool. A
consortium of State Aviation Organizations organizes and conducts
four, three-day workshops, hosts teachers in lodges at State Parks
(another participant) and gives each educator GPS and E6-B tools
worth over $1,000." The Civil Air Patrol "Fly a Teacher" program,
also offers flights to teachers participating in the workshops.
EAA is another participant in Kentucky's program. Five teachers
were hosted by EAA and the Wathen Foundation to attend the EAA
AeroScholars training at Flabob earlier this year. The State
Aviation Department has noted that they are looking to expand
teacher and student participation in the AeroScholars program
throughout more schools in the State. Kentucky boasts that they
would be the first state to implement EAA AeroScholars on a
ANN asked the Frankfort students about their experience at
AirVenture. Clint Slugantz, a senior, thought the most amazing
thing was "meeting the people and all the senior industry leaders,
and having an opportunity to really work on the plane."
Sophomore Stephanie Jones (shown below) was surprised at the
scale of AirVenture. "I became interested in aviation when a
teacher introduced me to Civil Air Patrol. I didn’t think
AirVenture was going to be so big. I enjoyed visiting the vintage
aircraft and especially liked all the P-51’s."
Justin Giles, a junior, was also surprised at the size of the
event. He became interested in aviation when he saw friends
participating in the aviation program and "wanted to do something
more than just school work". "The most exciting thing," said
Justin," was taking the Aeronca wing apart and seeing what was
Dr. Tim Smith has some lofty goals for the Frankfort program and
is not depending on the school district to fund it. "Not one penny
of the general funds goes to this program" says Smith. "Network
building has been key... We have to get more educators to come here
"My goal," he added, "is to change teaching practices of
math and science."
Thanks, Tim, for using aviation to inspire these kids and for
thinking BIG; keep up the good work!