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Tue, Aug 19, 2008

Industry Organizations Share AirVenture Enthusiasm With Students, Part Two

A Science Teacher And State of Kentucky Team Up To Promote Aviation Education

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 education.

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 in."

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 Frankfort."

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 statewide basis!

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 inside."

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 to AirVenture.

"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!

FMI: http://econnect.frankfort.k12.ky.us/aviation/, www.flabob.org, www.aeroscholars.org, http://transportation.ky.gov/Aviation/, www.buildaplane.org/, www.gama.aero, www.lincolnelectric.com, www.aviationkaa.org/

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