Some Ventura County Teens Learn Science Behind Flying In Aviation Course

Aug 9, 2019

Some high school students in Ventura County are spending part of their summer learning the science behind flying.

This aviation course teaches them how to use STEM - which stands for science, technology, engineering and math – to design and build small airplanes.

Students are using their engineering skills to build model aircraft.

“This is really cool. And I can use this. I can maybe build a career out of this or maybe build a hobby out of this,” says 17-year-old Alex Elo of Oxnard who is using scissors to cut through cardboard as he builds his airplane.

He’s one of about a dozen high school students taking this aviation class offered at the Ventura County Office of Education in Camarillo. This STEM course is intended to get teenagers excited about engineering and math. It features hands-on activities including launching balloon rockets, constructing a weather station and using flight simulators.

“When they can put it together in a hands-on application like this, then they get excited and then the content – the math and science behind it – they want to know,” says Juliet Herman who is the director for career education at VCOE.

Today’s lesson is “Make Garbage Fly.” Students use household recycled items – like cardboard boxes, water bottles and sticks -- to build small planes that can fly.

Fifteen-year-old Eddie Gamez of Fillmore is using an electric sander to sand down foam to create the wings of his plane.

“Just to get the basic form of it to make it fly. And our goal is to make it go as far as possible,” he says.

Gamez' teammate, 15-year-old Andrew Oregon of Fillmore, is using a bench saw to cut a wooden stick. He says he will attach the stick to a water bottle that will become the body of the plane, also known as the fuselage.

“We are just getting whatever we see and putting it together and see that we can make that into airplane. We just got to use our creativity,” he says.

Instructor Robin Sullivan, who’s a pilot, is guiding students as they build their planes.

“This is basic aerodynamics. This is what makes airplanes fly. When you look up, how does it stay up in the sky? That’s what they’re really doing today. They’re building airplanes, and they have to make them fly. So, it’s teaching them a lot,” she says.

Seventeen-year-old Evgeniya Lautt of Camarillo says she has a strategy to make her plane successfully fly.

“We’re trying to create a plane that has more aerodynamics and a larger wingspan so the lift can make it go higher and last longer. We’re making wood since it will be more durable instead of cardboard,” she says.

Lautt says her team is incorporating elements of STEM.

“We use a lot of mathematics in here. We have to have precise measurements for it. We use science for all the aerodynamics. And we use engineering to put all the stuff together,” she says.

The course teaches students the four forces of flight.

“Lift is what causes the plane to go up. Thrust is what causes it to go forward. Drag makes the plane speed down and weight makes it fall. If you want the plane to fly, all the weight and the drag and the lift and the thrust all have to be equal,” Elo says.

And then he takes his plane on a test flight by using thrust to throw it forward.

“It flew!" he yells.

The students are having fun and learning, but it’s also giving them inspiration to pursue their dreams.

“My parents always told me the sky’s the limit,” says Oregon who wants to be either an astronaut or a pilot.

He says that’s why he took this class.

“Flying, seeing that there’s a whole world out there to see there’s new possibilities and the whole world is out there for you to grab and take. You got to take the chances to try something new,” he says.