Derrick G. is a repeat teacher for Brooklyn Aerodrome and this year I decided to visit to see what his class was up to. This post will cover some of the designs the students came up with.

Once again I am blown away with how creative these teenagers are. This process does exactly the right thing in combining creativity, real physical constraints (needs to fly) and the endless problem solving that happens as a result.

They sent a very nice thank you note too.

The students were high schoolers from rising sophomores to seniors from all over the world which was very fun.

The session lasted 3 weeks (M-F) with 4 day long field trips so there were 11 days to do the builds. Classroom was 5 hours/day with lunch break. Two classrooms with students building in pairs, 3′ x 5′ working space I am guessing. Some students were building on the floor. Flying site was about a mile away (15 min walk) and it was very big. Students did not get to keep their airplanes.

The sequence went as follows:

  1. Lecture on physics of flight
  2. Build standard Flack
  3. Learn to fly without a flight simulator–there are issues with getting macintosh computers to work with flight simulators.
  4. Design own airplane–not all students prototyped with half scale gliders but most did. This helped them with determining the CG (Center of Gravity).
  5. Attempt to fly own design. Some worked, some didn’t.

Some observations:

  • Pairs of students works well.
  • Sub-decks work well. Students transfered sub-decks (with all but servos) between the Flack and their own design.
  • It is very important that the Flacks get built first and flying start as soon as possible. Teenagers will learn to fly very quickly but they need to sleep on it. 3 x 1 hour sessions per day is better than 3 hours on 1 day.
  • The build is taking 10-15 hours if students are not used to working with their hands. We are trying to get build time down to 6 hours.
  • There was an outbreak of floppy Flacks due to our triangle method of construction (see book). We now ship bulk foam to classrooms so they don’t need to do the triangle step.
  • Another factor in floppyness was that the blue foam only has plastic on one side now. Extra taping resolves this but be aware. We are looking into getting better foam as well.
  • Students are struggling with the force necessary to remove the flight battery from the speed control. We are changing the connectors for future kits.
  • One of the rooms got very messy which made it hard to build–foam scraps were everywhere. Keeping the build areas neat helps.