Posted in Women in Aviation Australia

WAI Sci-Fly Airborne Outreach

Winter School Holiday Program 2017

WAI Australian Education Outreach Coordinator Dr ‘Z’ has been very busy over the school holidays!

Around one hundred students took part in a huge four days of Sci-Fly STEM Outreach programs during the winter school holidays. With two days at Tyabb Airport, and a further two held at Swinburne Wantirna, July 2017 saw a total of three unique programs rolled out, all receiving a huge positive response and thanks.

It has now been almost a year since Sci-Fly founder Dr Zara Dennis first spoke to PrimeSCI! about her airborne outreach and aviation science lessons idea. Since then, the involvement of Women in Aviation Australia (WAI) has seen the initiative evolve massively, with Sci-Fly STEM Outreach officially launched at the WAI Brisbane Conference in October 2016.

For primary school activities however, the early partnership with PrimeSCI! has stayed strong and the sessions which have been held these school holidays are a testament to that relationship. Zara has both written and delivered all three programs, with wonderful support from PrimeSCI! in terms of equipment, logistics and the all-important bookings.

As Sci-Fly continues to grow within WAI, and the airborne component for secondary students takes flight, the primary school “FlySCI!” sessions (as they have been named in recognition of the partnership) are set to continue, hopefully with some grade 1-2 session in the works very soon.

The first week of the school holidays hosted three of the four sessions, the first two down the Mornington Peninsula at Tyabb. We cannot thank The Peninsula Aero Club and the Old Aeroplane Company enough for their support. With dedicated use of their classroom for both days, and most of all to the inimitable Judy Pay (who first piloted a Tiger Moth at the age of 16 and has been hooked ever since), for organising the hanger tours of her amazing collection of Warbirds. To quote one young man as we entered the hanger “I need to pinch myself to make sure this is real” … well it absolutely was, and we suspect there was a modicum of envy coming from a few parents and grandparents as the kids got a first-hand look at Judy’s collection, and indeed meet this inspiration lady herself.

The classroom sessions at Tyabb followed a similar program to our previous school holiday programs at Lilydale, and without a doubt it has been the success of the initial roll out at Zara’s home Flying School, that has helped in spreading our wings.  ‘Forces of Flight’ however was replaced by a slightly more technical ‘Aircraft Controls’ lesson, including a look at flight instruments. A move we made given the outstanding calibre of knowledge these youngsters in grades 5-8 bring with them. We stuck with our DC motor propellers and Scribble Bots for the second half however, as these never fail to fill the classroom with laughter… and learning… always learning!

Zara was, as ever, full of her characteristic high energy and enthusiastic delivery. Chatting to a handful of parents after the main session also, she signed off on a Scout Air Activity badge and received some feedback that may well be the deciding moment in regards to the instructor rating she has been pondering over for a while. Currently half way through CPL, Zara is 4/7 exams down, and needs around another 30 hours command. The 11 year old daughter of this particular parent has shown a keen interest in learning to fly, and without a doubt, she certain shined during the program. With a plan to start her flying lessons when she is 14, her mum asked the question: In three years then, would Zara have her instructor rating and be able to teach her daughter? Yeah, okay… our founder had a big kid moment right there and then, beaming from ear-to-ear at the impact her program was clearly making; and, if timeframes and logistics align, yes absolutely, it would be a genuine pleasure!

With a day off from school holiday programs, Zara snuck back to the science lab for a day, and was then ready to take on the Swinburne Wantirna group, and the first ever Sci-Fly sessions for grades 3-4. ‘Forces of Flight’ was first up, based on the session by the same name that has now evolved into aircraft controls for the onsite airport program, these junior aviators were all hands-on deck. With a beginner’s guide to lift, thrust, and drag, including practical tasks to investigate each force, and take home paper plane templates. The second day at Wantirna then saw the launch of a brand new session, ‘Aviation Navigation’. Wherein the participants got hands-on with real aviation maps, learned some introductory navigation skills, and completed a practical problem solving challenge. The latter was both fascinating and exceptional to watch, as the teamwork unfolded, and the tinkering and testing saw each group producing a unique marble navigation route. Again feedback was extremely positive, and to finish, Zara even recorded a ’Brains Matter’ podcast discussing the project and its futureaims.

The airborne component of Sci-Fly STEM Outreach may still be looking for financial support to help us further our reach, but our primary programs are now gaining some serious momentum, and this is fantastic for launching Zara’s initiative to the skies. Barwon Heads, and Latrobe Valley airports are two locations we are currently discussing, plus with Girls in Aviation Day happening in Canberra on the 23rd of September, maybe this will see the launch of the first interstate program.

Four days and just over one hundred kids, plus of course all of our previous participants from Lilydale, Geelong, and the inaugural airborne trip to Wycheproof, the word is definitely spreading. And so is Zara inspirational creation.

Sci‑Fly STEM Outreach and Women in Aviation Australia: Taking Science Education to the Skies!

For further details on our next planned Airborne Outreach program why not check out our Facebook page and website: www.sciflystemoutreach.com.au

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