By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Nearly 80 fifth graders from Johnson Elementary in Bryan, Texas, participated in a unique, hands-on educational experience at Coulter Field Airport on April 11.
The air fair promotes a practical application of math and science through aircraft- and aviation-related meteorological projects. The Doctor James Noel Foundation sponsored the day’s events along with support from the Bryan school district, Coulter Field, academic departments from Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).
“The goal of the air fair is to not only expose kids to aviation, but to apply STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] concepts in an aviation environment,” says Brian Heckman, vice chairman of the Dr. James Noel Foundation Board of Directors and event organizer. “A few days before the air fair, we visited Johnson Elementary and with the help of Texas A&M students, conducted several teaching exercises to prepare them for their airport visit. We want this to be a meaningful learning experience for them.”
One of the classroom exercises was to construct a Whitewing glider, which the kids took out to Coulter Field to test. Other learning stations at the air fair included a weather balloon launch, cockpit tours of various aircraft including a medical evacuation helicopter and a fly-by and water droplet distribution experiment using the United States Department of Agriculture’s Aerial Application Research Unit’s high technology Air Tractor.
A few days after the air fair, the volunteers returned to Johnson Elementary to analyze the data students collected from the Air Tractor, glider flights, and the weather balloons, answer questions and discuss what they learned.
“This event provides students an opportunity to interact with pilots, engineers and college students outside of the classroom,” says TTI Research Scientist Jeff Borowiec. “It was a great day for aviation education.”
About the Noel Foundation:
Dr. Jim Noel was an educator, teacher and friend to hundreds of students and pilots in Central Texas and around the country. As a professor at Texas A&M University, he influenced the lives of his students not only by his ability to explain subject matter, but by his concern for them as individuals.
He instituted the idea of Air Fairs to introduce young people to that same idea: to release them from the bonds of gravity and help them soar to unimaginable heights of achievement. It was all part of his life’s philosophy: to expand the horizon of his students’ imaginations and inspire them to take themselves further than they thought possible.
“The Noel Foundation believes that enabling students to interact and experience technical concepts in action sparks the fire of imagination and, perhaps, generates interest in future career paths,” says Chairman John Happ. “In our previous programs, teachers have reported extremely positive results that can be related directly from their students experiencing our course.”