We have been doing group builds with the Flack from the very beginning of Brooklyn Aerodrome. Our first big build with kids was at Beam Camp in 2010–it seems a long time ago. Since then we have done a few programs with Dalton (20122014), Brooklyn College in (2015, 2016), Civil Air Patrol and it goes on. I am guessing that around 1,000 Flacks have been built in education settings since we started and a lot more than that if you include makers who keyed off of the Make Magazine Article or the book DIY R/C Airplanes from Scratch.

The point is that there has been lots of teaching around the Flack (aka Towel) and we would like there to be more. This post covers my assessment of what works, what doesn’t and how we fix what doesn’t work. I’ll start with the positive:

What works:

  • The Flack design curriculum taps a massive creative vein. The process is that students prototype half-scale gliders that demonstrate aerodynamic stability and lift which is converted into a powered RC plane. The resulting designs are outstanding, look at the Dalton 2014 and Dana Hall 2016 for an idea of what students come up with. The applied STEM skills evident encourage us to keep developing this curriculum.
  • We have seen 6th grade girls do very well, I would suggest 7th grade for boys. Above 9th grade I would prefer to work with students who self select rather than draft them into the class but younger students will get caught up into it whether they want to be there or not.
  • We have gotten cost reductions down to as low as $40/student from what was $200.

What doesn’t work:

  • The current Flack build is 9-12 hours for students. 3 hours would be better. I can build one in 30-45 min.
  • The students are not getting enough time to learn to fly. But lots of kids learn in the 2 hrs they get.
  • Diagnosing problems with the build is a bit hard, diagnosing problems student own designs is very hard.

What we are doing to help teachers more:

  • We are reducing low value parts of assembly. By “low value” we mean things that are tedious for the first Flack build like making control arms, centering servos, precision elevon cuts. These are steps that take too much supervision and they don’t add much to the learning. When students are designing/building their own planes then they pick up more of these skills because they have to.
  • We are working on design guidelines to spot typical problems in the students designs. Common issues include floppy planes, too small wing area, odd control surfaces and too much weight.

That’s it for now. We are prepping for World Maker Faire 2016, hope to see you there.