For most of us, middle school science consisted of lectures, textbooks, and if we were lucky, a few hands-on experiments every now and then. For the kids that participate in the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge, middle school science has been taken to a whole new level. These students are actually building a real-life airplane from scratch, that will eventually be fully operational and will fly in one of the world's biggest air shows.
Trace Dominguez got a chance to speak with some of the instructors and the kids involved in this life-changing project across the pond in the U.K. Stuart Blakemore is in charge of STEM at Wolverhampton Academy and told Trace that it's hard to put into words just how advanced these kids in the program have become for their age.
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"The fact that they are doing something real. The fact there is something tangible. And the fact that it is hard and complicated. It lifts the whole tenor of what we're doing," he said. "It's difficult to express verbally. The way they are operating at a level that 11, 12, 13 year old kids should not be operating at."
The Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge is administered by both the Royal Aeronautical Society and Boeing, and an immense amount of opportunities are available to students who graduate from the program. A variety of scholarships, internships and jobs have been offered to program graduates simply because of how well prepared they are and the knowledge they've gained through such a unique experience.
Many of the kids from the program that Trace spoke with said they wanted to be engineers when they grow up, which is a big win for proponents of STEM education. STEM is all about getting kids excited to work in science, technology, engineering and math fields and in this case it's working incredibly well.
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"When I grow up I want to be a website designer, but i'm also having a change of plans because this (Build-A-Plane) has changed things for me. Because now I'm getting better at physics. Before I never used to know a thing about physics, but now I do and it's great," Ravi Ram Ge, a student participating in Build-A-Plane from NE Wolverhampton Academy told Trace.
The project takes a long time to complete -- the group that Trace talked to won't have their plane finished for another two years still -- but the kids are already excited to see it in action. When they're finally done, they'll get to witness an airplane they built with their own two hands, through complicated engineering procedures and a lot of teamwork, flying directly over their heads. There's nothing that quite compares.
-- Molly Fosco