Students Aim for the Skies with Airplane Engineering Project

On any given afternoon, middle and upper school students gather in the Makers Studio to build The Athenian School’s newest airplane. The all-metal, two-person Van’s Aircraft RV-12 is one example of the school’s hands-on experiential learning opportunities.

The plane is 20-feet long, has a wingspan of 27 feet, is powered by a 100hp Rotax engine, and comes in a kit that includes wings, fuselage, empennage and tailcone, finishing, powerplant, and avionics. That technical terminology actually makes sense to the over 90 students involved in the project, since they’ve been formally trained on all of the Studio’s power machines, including the drill press, bench grinder, belt sander, and air-driven rivet guns.

The chair of the school’s new Design-Learning and Engineering Department and an upper school science teacher collaborate to plan the daily tasks. Recently, the students took turns using an air-powered rivet gun to precisely line up and set rivets into the wing. About 16,000 are required to hold it together, and each must be placed correctly.

The students know it’s in their best interest to hone their skills. Once completed—hopefully by the end of 2014—a few lucky ones will be chosen via lottery for another rare learning experience—a chance to fly in the plane they built together.

Does your school do something similar?

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