(Photo by Flickr user D. Miller, used under a Creative Commons license)
If you want to get high school students into STEM, give them something to build.
That’s why the year-old Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Bede Family Foundation, established after the passing of aircraft designer and Bede Corporation CEO Jim Bede, just donated a $30,000 airplane kit to students at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Chestnut Hill.
For the next four to five years, design and engineering students at SCH Academy will build a BD-4C airplane on the school’s campus, and they’ll be the first students from an American independent school to do so.
The project was proposed by Peter Randall, chair of the school’s engineering department. Actually, he’s tossed the idea out to students on “numerous occasions,” and it just never took. This year, juniors Catie McDermott and Noelle Goudy decided to take on the challenge.
“I am so thrilled to be building a BD-4C aircraft because it is beyond anything that I have ever done in scale and difficulty,” said Goudy, adding that she’s looking forward to building real-world engineering and leadership skills. McDermott agreed.
“I am excited to be building an airplane because it is such a unique opportunity and experience to have as a 16-year-old girl,” she said. “Not many people can say that they had the chance to build something this complex, no matter their age.”
Actually, McDermott and Goudy found the Bede Family Foundation themselves — it was the first leg of their project. The duo secured the kit by submitting an essay and video proposal to the foundation, which states on its website that it has a “sole purpose of introducing the youth of our community to the experimental aviation community and the joys of building kit aircraft.” According the school, the foundation responded with haste.
The two will continue to work on the plane this year, then pass it down to next year’s student engineers. That process will continue until the construction of the 1,250-pound plane is built — then the school will need to procure an engine and all the electronic accouterments themselves.
“The team has not only sought out and procured the necessary kit, but they are showing up at 7 a.m. every morning to work on it before school,” Randall said. “It is a total win for SCH and our students.”
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