I have recently completed my second year of teaching the Brooklyn Aerodrome Flight Academy program as part of the Brooklyn College STEP Summer Immersion Program. This has been a highly successful program both years.
The objectives were for the students to scratch build a Flack R/C airplane, teach students to fly well enough that they could fly safely on their own, and give them some troubleshooting experience to maintain their aircraft.
The class took place for four hours a day for four days, this was barely enough time to complete our objectives. Last year we had two hour classes a day, and we lost a lot of time to setup and take down. I think 6-8 days at four hours a day will be optimal. Each day was around 15 minutes of setup and getting everyone focused, and hour of building, thirty minutes of lecture, 15 minutes of break, an hour and three quarters of building/flying and 15 minutes of clean up.
The lecture component was on the four forces of flight, center of gravity/weight and balance, knowing where it’s safe to fly and airplane maintenance.
We had twenty students in the class, I grouped them into self-selected, groups of four. We kept these groups for building and flying. Our classroom was a science lab, the lab benches gave us space to spread out. Each group had a large bin for all their tools and supplies, this helped keep track of everything and made breakdown and setup much more efficient. Each bin had its own color sharpie to label everything, and to quickly know where a random piece or tool belongs.As far as safety, I demonstrated the correct use of the tools and spent a lot of time focusing using the knives safely, and not setting them down with the blade out.
Day 1 was just focused on building the decks.
I would show the class the next step using a model airplane, and the students could watch build videos and ask for help as they went if they got stuck. I had groups of students try out the R/C flight simulator to start to get a feel on flying.
Day 2, we continued to build decks, and I brought groups back and we cut the foam. This year we had all the elevons pre-cut so students just needed to cut out the triangles. I also had a station setup for cutting the push rods, and rotated students through that as well. We also took a break from airplanes to build and launch paper and tape rockets from airrocketworks.com.
Day 3 we attached the decks to the air-frames, and cleared up the loose ends, it’s amazing how much of a time sink it is to get the airplanes from looking almost done to actually done. As students finished we gave the planes a once over to make sure everything was in good shape. We spent the afternoon learning to launch (without the batteries attached).
Day 4 was spent flying all day. For the flying, we worked with the flight line from the website, this way I we could have around 8 airplanes in the air at once (just doing straight flights and maybe turns). All the students needed to be able to fly straight for 50 meters, and turn 180 and bring it back.
- Still not enough time, another 8 hours or so would give us more time to fly and a less frantic build. We would also have time for students make their own designs.
- Having a second adult that can focus on repairing and troubleshooting while flying is very helpful.