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Students learn about mysteries of flight

October 03, 2000

Students learn about mysteries of flight



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Some students in Monique Williams' eighth-grade science class at James Buchanan Middle School spoke with authority when referring to airplane parts like ailerons, stabilizers and rudders and flight patterns.

Their knowledge was gained from an engineer.

All 23 students taking the eight-week program will learn the basic dynamics of flight, the ability to work together and why math and science relate to the work place, said Sam McLaughlin, an engineer with Grove Worldwide.

Grove is sending McLaughlin to the middle school as technical advisor to the students in the glider-making program. Grove sponsors the program and provides the Styrofoam, clay and balsa wood from which the planes are made.

"It's neat that the students can work with a real engineer and see what someone does in the real world," Williams said.

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The course, "A World in Motion," was developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers to help develop students' natural interest in science through teamwork and hands-on instruction, McLaughlin said.

The students will use the knowledge and experience they gained by building gliders in the first few weeks of the program to come together in the end as a class to design and build a single glider. They will need their knowledge of math, science and language arts to design the plane, come up with a plan to market it and write a manuscript describing the construction plans and instructions on how to fly it, McLaughlin said.

Williams said she selected the glider program for one section of her science class. Students in other sections have different programs, she said.

On Monday, all eight teams took their gliders to a hallway in the middle school. They explained to their classmates any changes made in the designs of their planes based on what they learned through flight tests the week before. They had to fly their planes in front of their peers.

Tiffany Piper said after Monday's class that she's learning the difference between flying and gliding. "This is better than studying it out of books," she said.

"I'm learning that if you adjust the ailerons you can change the way a plane flies," John Fisher said.

The next step is a ready-made glider that the team will modify and improve according to their designs, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he's there to offers technical advice. "They have to work to figure things out and they're taking it seriously," he said. "It also teaches them the importance of studying math and science."

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