Contact: Program Director, Linda F. Castner
Phone: office - 908.735.0870, cell 908.328.1947
Interest and Excitement Builds for Aviation-Themed STEM Education Program
"Department of Transportation Funded New Jersey Based Collaborative Kicks Off with Compelling Day-Long Program"
In October 2010, a New Jersey based business-education partnership announced the award of a DOT Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program (GAMTTEP) grant to Hunterdon Central Regional High School (HCRHS), its sending districts, Alexandria Field Airport, and the developers of Leaders Take Flight® and Women Take Flight® workshops, Linda Castner and Dr. Sue Stafford.
Organizers have wasted no time in getting started. Program Director: Ms. Castner and a team from Hunterdon Central and Delaware Valley Regional High School (DVRHS), FAA, Rutgers University, Alexandria Field Airport and local businesses organized an all-day event on November 13, 2010 that attracted over 300 people. The purpose was to "kick-off" the GAMTTEP collaborative and inform prospective participants of the mission, the program and the next steps.
Creativity, inspiration and passion for aviation were themes demonstrated throughout the day, from theatrical reenactments of moments in aviation history, personal stories from men and women representing a variety of careers in aviation and aerospace, including Cheryl O'Brien, a Vice President with Federal Express and Lehigh University Professor Terry Hart, a former NASA Space Shuttle astronaut. Blue skies served as a backdrop to fly-bys over the high-school with live-audio narration from the cockpits, and an afternoon open house at Alexandria Field.
"Our objective is to stimulate interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) through the lens of aviation," said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Brady, as she greeted parents, students, educators, industry leaders and members of the community at HCRHS for the morning session of the kick-off event.
"This is different from trying to interest everyone in becoming a pilot", said Castner, "this program is intended to motivate and inspire one to achieve their potential. Sometimes people don't see opportunities because they seem a lot like hard work, but with your help, GAMTTEP participants will learn the importance of persistence and be inspired by this program."
"We are offering Alexandria Field as the "Living Laboratory", said Castner's brother Bill Fritsche, a former TWA Captain, 30,000 hour pilot and co-owner of the airport. Mr. Fritsche described GAMTTEP Engineering Tours inspired by his family's nearly 70 year effort in building, developing and operating Alexandria Field. The engineering curriculum is supported by faculty from the engineering school at Rutgers, one of the GAMTTEP partners, and engineers who are also Alexandria based pilots.
Educators from participating K-12 schools outlined how an aviation-themed program is going to enhance STEM education in classrooms. Jim Gessner, a chemistry teacher from DVRHS, shared his "views from the office" as a former captain flying an MD-80. Gessner talked about incorporating aviation as part of the classroom curriculum, long term, at multiple grade levels. He also introduced how aviation library collections had been started through the DOT grant at both DVRHS and HCRHS.
Sharon Klamik, an educator from the Milford YMCA, encouraged school class tours of Alexandria Field. "The children who come to the airport today may be the future of aviation," said Sharon, as pre-school students enthusiastically demonstrated on stage how they love aviation-themed play.
Ken Micai, Chair of the Science Department at HCRHS, described the early college credit programs provided by Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC), for which the GAMTTEP grant is providing two scholarships. Jay Kreisman, science instructor at HCRHS, emphasized statistics about STEM's contribution to the economy and bright future for employment. "Aviation is the perfect intersection of the STEM disciplines," said Kreisman, who developed an Aviation Science course. It is anticipated that the relationship with Alexandria Field and outreach to elementary schools will stimulate interest in aviation, meteorology and other new course content throughout Hunterdon County schools.
High school students described to their peers how the classroom programs would be supplemented with hands-on extra-curricular activities such as summer camps at Alexandria Field, and through activities of the Aviation Science Club, including experimental aircraft building, flying lessons, internships, lectures and field trips. Presenters extended invitations for corporations, local businesses, clubs and others to participate in the programs, and highlighted opportunities for individuals to volunteer.
One of the many creative examples, the "Courtesy Car" fundraiser, was described by Colin Stewart, a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) at Alexandria Field. "This idea was developed by Linda in collaboration with the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce. Visitors flying into Alexandria Field can use the courtesy car, that will also come with promotional certificates from local businesses", said Colin. "In return for use of the car, we will ask them to fill the tank and donate something to the Aviation Science Club."
Tucker Gott, a 15-year-old student pilot, described the story of an experimental aircraft kit recently purchased by his grandfather. "One of the projects of the Aviation Science Club will be to complete the dream of my grandfather and his neighbor, whose late wife purchased the Kit-Fox for him to build and fly." "Tucker's story has generated great interest", said Castner. "At least eleven volunteers with experience building full-scale aircraft showed up on a stormy night last week to start the Kit-Fox project."
Some of the most popular presentations were made by parents of children pursuing aviation careers. "How many of you have 'Fear', 'Uncertainty' and 'Doubt' about aviation?" A question posed to the audience by a father of daughter, Blake, who was interested in flying at age nine. "In our family, we called it FUD, the elephant in the room. In the process of Blake's learning to fly, we learned how to 'shrink the elephant'." Blake (now attending an Aviation program at Auburn University), also inspired her mother. Both Blake and mom earned their private pilot certificates at Alexandria Field.
Patricia Watts, Program Director for the FAA Centers of Excellence, congratulated the Central Jersey Collaborative on the GAMMTEP award, "one of only 10 given each year to high schools by the Secretary of Transportation". Ms. Watts also described the many prestigious and exciting FAA laboratories students from DVRHS and HCRHS will visit at the FAA Technical Center, located in Southern New Jersey.
Congratulations were also conveyed reading correspondence from NJ State Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance, NJ State Senator Diane Allen, and actor/pilot John Travolta.
Dr. Sue Stafford, a research partner of the Take Flight workshops, Professor of Philosophy at Simmons College, and instrument rated pilot, started with a question, "Why fly?" and offered a response, "Because flying is a transformational and motivational experience. We call it 'The Flying Effect'T. The research project Linda Castner and I conducted, through numerous workshops, documented that the 'Flying Effect'T is real!"
Dr. Stafford described how the DOT grant is funding two Take Flight® workshops, one for 12 women faculty from the high-schools and participating universities, and one for 12 girls from the high schools. Each workshop is two days, and includes classroom and experiential instruction, one flight each day, and facilitated discussion using flight as a metaphor. "Examples of metaphors we discuss", said Dr. Stafford, "are 'pilot in command' and 'VX' (i.e. your ability to reach peak performance), not only of an airplane, but of your classroom or your education, as opposed to just going along for the ride."
"For teachers, we believe it will ultimately lead to improved collaboration with colleagues, more confidence in the classroom, and willingness to try new STEM approaches," said Stafford. "For students, we believe it will mean many things, including more confidence to stick it out when the going gets tough, which happens in STEM courses."
Sue described Rutgers' commitment to supporting women pursuing STEM careers and their involvement in the GAMMTEP program, where Rutgers faculty will be participating in the Leaders Take Flight® workshops.
A few hundred people spent the afternoon at Alexandria Field and enjoyed talking with the owners and pilots of 42 airplanes, one hot air balloon, and three helicopters. Excitement motivated nearly 20 "introductory flights" provided by the flight school at Alexandria Field and through the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program.
Attendee feedback collected via post-event surveys revealed that the majority of people were inspired by the GAMMTEP kick-off program to consider flight training and/or to support student interests in STEM careers. Ms. Castner reported that media attention has generated interest from other privately owned, public use airports. Representatives from STEM programs focused on women and minorities have also called to express interest in learning about the program and how this business-education model can be replicated in their community, coincidentally one of DOT's goals for GAMMTEP programs.
"This collaboration between the airport, the schools, FAA, and local businesses presents a great opportunity for involvement by a broad spectrum of the aviation industry", said Castner. "Potential corporate sponsors have starting expressing interest and there are many opportunities, both large and small, to get involved." Support from the private sector and philanthropic community will be used to strengthen outreach and the hands-on activities at Alexandria Field, demonstrating how an airport serves as a focal point for STEM related programs.
For further information on how to get involved, please contact Linda Castner, Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org (908.735.0870).
October 6, 2010
Contact: Program Director, Linda F. Castner
Phone: office - 908.735.0870, cell 908.328.1947