Photo Courtesy of Fly to Learn

Forty percent of students test below basic math levels (National Assessment of Student Progress) and 50 percent of students test below basic science (iBid). While careers in science, technology, engineering, and math are projected to increase to two million jobs in 2014, the performance and interest among students in these areas have fallen short.

“In some classrooms there has been a disconnect between what is happening in the classroom and what is happening outside the classroom,” says Tom Dubick. “STEM education can change this.”

Tom Dubick, a LEGO Education Advisory Panel (LEAP) member and K-12 STEM education educator of 20 years, began using airplane models and flight simulators in his classroom to motivate and engage his students in STEM learning applicable to real world careers.

Randy Witt at Laminar Research introduced Dubick to X-Plane, a world-leading aircraft design and flight simulation software program. “Randy and I were excited about the possibility that students could design, build and fly virtual airplanes,” says Dubick. “Thus, Fly to Learn was born.”

Fly to Learn Teaches STEM Fundamentals

Students in the Fly to Learn program, which was founded in 2011, learn STEM fundamentals through the design, construction, flight, and performance evaluation of virtual airplanes. X-Plane incorporates realistic laws of physics found in the field, which fosters the beginnings of critical thinking and problem solving found in aviation careers.

“Our focus is getting all students interested in STEM, not just aviation or robotics,” says Dubick. “The program is both engaging and academically rigorous.”

Students move through 10 rigorous courses that teach the science and math behind flight, the engineering required to build planes, and the skills necessary to successfully take off, fly, and land.

“Programs like Fly to Learn give children a chance to be creative in a new way,” says Dubick. “STEM programs show kids they can be creative in the design and building process, plus creative in problem solving.”

Fly to Learn offers students key learning around:

  • Scientific and engineering methods
  • Life, drag, weight, thrust, and stability
  • Mathematical modeling and aspect ratio
  • Potential versus kinetic energy
  • Momentum and center of gravity
  • Forces and torque
  • Design and construction; and
  • Pitch, yaw, and roll.

Fly to Learn gives students a hands-on experience in STEM education from the convenience, comfort, and safety of the classroom.

“There are no perishables,” says Dubick. “Plus we conduct an annual aviation challenge where kids from everywhere can compete together without having to travel. Fly to learn is affordable so every school can participate.”

The program will culminate in an Aviation Challenge where students apply acquired knowledge to compete with other students in their classroom including state, regional, and national levels to develop problem solving and team working modifications,” says Brian Bridges at Fly to Learn.

Technology Leverages Interest in STEM

“Our focus is getting all students interested in STEM, not just aviation or robotics,” says Dubick. “The program is both engaging and academically rigorous.”

Programs like Fly to Learn, which align with the recent STEM standards for curriculum, effectively leverage technologies to gives students a realistic depiction of STEM knowledge and careers for their futures.

“Technology provides the most resource-effective way to teach STEM,” says Dubick. “By leveraging, we are able to bring the classroom a powerful flight simulator and plane-building program with a complete teacher-ready curriculum.”

Dubick says current teaching methods create an environment of memorization, which inhibits students’ ability to develop critical thinking, innovation and true comprehension of STEM Fundamentals. The implementation and use of effective technology advances students’ conceptual understanding and the relevance of subject matter.

“Technology will never exceed the value of the teacher,” says Dubick. “Technology is part of the toolbox teachers can use to stimulate passion thereby increasing students’ desire and participation in hands-on opportunities. This will be imperative in our global economy.”

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