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Started an RC build club at school

earthsciteach

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#1
I teach 8th grade Earth Science at a middle school in the West Shore School District near Harrisburg, PA. Each year (this is my 4th year teaching-2nd career) I have offered extra-curricular activities to students based on my interests. These have included a canoe and kayak club, outdoor adventure club, coaching our Science Olympiad team, leading field immersion trips, ultimate frisbee, and this year, an RC airplane scratch build club.

I have been fascinated with airplanes and flight as far back as I can remember. I've tinkered with real airplanes, took flying lessons in high school and soloed on my 16th birthday. Cost and college, then marriage and a family came along, so I never obtained my pilot license. I always was interested in RC aircraft, but never got into the hobby until last spring. I love it!

I am extending my excitement of RC aircraft to my students. Along with the art teacher in my building who also flies RC airplanes, I have started a scratch build RC club at school. Currently, we have 8 students participating. I would love to have more, but logistically, more than 10 will be overwhelming. The students participating cover a broad range of backgrounds. We have one student who lives in a home for abused and neglected children. I asked him to participate because I think it will give him a feeling of belonging and boost his self-confidence. Contrast that with a student whose dad is almost completed a build of a Van's RV-7A. This guy lost his garage when his mother-in-law moved in. Unnerved, he built the airplane below grade in his basement. When time came to roll it out and start final assembly, he dug a big hole, knocked out his basement wall and pulled the plane out with a come-along. Its now only a few months away from maiden.

All of the students are great kids. Some are very successful in school and some are the names spoken with a scowl on other teachers' faces. But, if you can connect on a human level with a student, they are your best ally!

We meet every Tuesday after school. This week (Oct 3rd) will be our 3rd meeting. If the weather is good, we start flight lessons on my upgraded Wild Hawk. I found it in the trash on the curb a few weeks ago and turned it into a 4 channel rocket! I'll take it up and let the kids glide it down to get a feel for flying an rc airplane.

Most of the kids have picked out airplanes for their first build. I have been impressed by the interest in historically important aircraft. One wants to build a Fokker DR1, another an SE5A to contest the Red Baron, P-51, F-22, and one who wants a sailplane. I'm going to build an EDF F-106 in honor of one of my fellow science teachers who was a mechanic in the Air Force. He worked on 106s and B-1s.

I am so excited about working with the kids on this! I love this little hobby. I get to express my creativity while satisfying my love of aircraft and flight! What could be better? I can't think of anything!
 

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JimCR120

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#4
I too am on my 4th year in the school and my 2nd career. My involvement though with the Science Olympiad is done vicariously through my son who does very well without my help. He has taken first place several times already in Maine. Last year he was the SumoBot Champ and the year before that he won the mousetrap car and Rube-Goldberg device events. I attribute much of his success to our hobby and how he really focuses and tinkers with his builds to get them right. He's a senior this year so I get to go through it all again with him and a couple of his friends who are soon to be joining the forum here. They're all good decent young men with a knack for engineering and a thirst for flying.
 

earthsciteach

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#7
Thanks, guys. I am excited about this whole thing. I'm also stressing over it. 8th graders are about as easy to keep focused and on task as, well, I can't even think of a comparison. The kids are very excited, but I have to reign them in and somehow get them to focus on a project. I know it will all come together, but it isn't going to be easy.
 

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JimCR120

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#8
Maybe they can hit some rewarding milestones along the way that keep their motivation up. You're a teacher. If you can do this without things that fly, I would think sending up RC planes would be so much easier. If they get to losing their patience, maybe an Estes rocket launch could quench their thirst for "wow".
 

earthsciteach

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#10
Day 3 of RC build club :)

First of all, I hate when I read my own posts and see grammar mistakes! "get it out of there system"? Really? Way to be there, teach! LOL!

This was our first day of "flight instruction" at the Allen Middle School RC Build Club. For the first time in many days, the sun shone brightly through broken clouds. And I forgot my sunglasses. Mother nature deemed it appropriate to replace cold, rainy weather with winds gusting 10-15+ mph. So, what better to do than turn your rc aircraft over to 13 and 14 year olds?

We grew to 11 kids today. I took half, flew my enormously modified, incredibly fast and powerful Wild Hawk up about 6 mistakes high. The Art teacher allowed students to fly his stock, much slower flying than my Hawk :D, Sky Surfer. Each kid took the controls and battled the winds until I couldn't take it anymore and rescued my plane from their twitchy fingers. The kids did really well considering the winds were beastly for someone who has never flown an RC airplane before. It was a good day!

Next week-start to put ideas to plans!
 

earthsciteach

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#12
That is a good question. I don't think there is a blanket answer.

There seems to be a set of skills, language being one, that very young children soak up pretty much intuitively. I am fascinated and bewildered by the concept of language learning. Ever tried to learn a foreign language? It is NOT easy! Yet, very young children are capable of learning it without any formal instruction. They just do.

Then, look at an abstract concept like algebra. If you try to teach this to a young child, they can't grasp it. Adults, or at least those that have developed an outlook on life that is beyond right vs wrong or black vs white seem to be more capable of learning those concepts.

I believe that certain concepts are best learned at appropriate stages of development. Unfortunately, our education system is based on the bell curve of chronological age vs brain development. And, due to the high stakes of standardized testing, we are forced to push inappropriate concepts lower and lower. Guess what?!? It doesn't work!
 

JimCR120

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#13
It would make sense that children learn languages so well. Once they are born tt is their only study in support of their greatest need. By the time they are in school, they've already been studying their own language and learning how to use it to fill their needs and wants. I don't think it's any wonder then that they would be able to pick up another as well since their language learning skills have been at work since birth. I do like the formal instruction or at least a good guide book for the syntax but to learn to converse there is nothing like total immersion. Been there, done that.

I think it boils down to what one is accustomed to. Certainly some people have better aptitudes for certain things but familiarity with a subject is huge.

I do agree we push a lot on the kids and sometimes I don't even think we are thinking about the end goal. What is it that we are trying to produce? What is really important? Currently I'm enrolled in an online college course pursuing my BS in Elementary Ed. with an emphasis in mathematics. We talk about these idea a lot in our discussion groups.

My unqualified opinion is getting the kids exposed to a variety of disciplines (language, art, music, math, science, and athletics) all the while teaching them authority, courtesy, and patience.

Having an RC club in the school is an excellent means to support that end. For example I told my son if there is a project that seems uninteresting, then make it interesting by connecting it with something very interesting. If history is boring, what about the history of flight? If science is boring, how about the physics of flight? If language is boring, maybe a discussion of aeronautical terms might spice it up.

—Jim
 

earthsciteach

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#14
I had a very similar conversation with a group of students today. I tried to encourage them to take ownership of a small writing assignment and make it entertaining for themselves. However, they are so accustomed to being required to supply the "correct" answer, that they end up spinning their wheels when given the opportunity to be creative and expressive.

They were asked to write 3 paragraphs on a short story by Roald Dahl called, "Lamb to Slaughter." It is a great short story. If you haven't read it, google it! Its online and only takes about 10 minutes to read. They were asked to write 3 paragraphs on how they thought the story could be improved. Most got totally hung up on trying to figure out what the "right" response was. I invoked aliens and zombies as an addition to the story. Why not? They just would not have gone there. Its not in the world of education that they know. Creativity is not fostered in k-12 education. We give them facts to remember and regurgitate. They are given an assignment with a predetermined outcome. They are held responsible for reaching that outcome. Rarely are they given the opportunity to think freely and create. When they are given that opportunity, they don't know what to do with it. That is likely as much conditioning from the constraints of a mass education system as it is their level of cognitive development.

Why aren't they given the opportunity to think freely and tackle open ended problems? 1) Most lack the self-discipline at a young age to do so. 2) Its so much easier to give an assignment with a definitive answer than one that is completely open ended.
 

JimCR120

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#15
I hear you! I feel the same way. In my online class full of teacher wannabe's I see those kinds of mistakes and worse all the time. But then I notice if I don't give my own stuff at least a quick proof read I make some pretty obvious blunders of my own. That SO does not go well with the Monk in me!

The WildHawk is what I cut my teeth on. It wasn't too long after though I bought an extra servo and a Y. I disabled the rudder and went to bank and yank aileron/elevator controlling. Boy did I like the change. Before that I remember that turning it was slow and I wasn't always getting the result I expected. I think I had to pitch it up or down while throwing in rudder to get a good turn out of it. Did you keep the stock motor or upgrade? Right now I'm redoing the whole airframe from scratch with FFF. SO far I only have the wings done but they came out nicely with the tips up just like the original. One thing I intend to do differently is I want to try an elevating only V-tail.

If it turns out how I want this will be my trainer aircraft for the newbies.
 

earthsciteach

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#16
I found the Wild Hawk on the curb out for garbage a few weeks ago. The plane was complete, minus that TX and canopy. I ripped out the electronics and installed a 35 A ESC, PowerUp 400 motor, 6x3 prop and new servos all around. I also added ailerons. The airplane is completely ridiculous! The plane will climb vertically as long as I dare let it. I can take off of the ground without landing gear (as long as I can prevent a wingtip from catching). It is A LOT of fun!
 

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JimCR120

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#18
Roughly. The Bixler is better though because it has 4 channel operation (throttle, elevator, aileron, and rudder) vs 3 (throttle, elevator, and rudder) and because it has a more powerful brushless motor operating off of a 11.1v Lipo vs the 8.4v NiMH. Oh and the price is right too.
 

colorex

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#20
Will do. I've been looking at that plane for very long now. Just don't have the money! However a friend of mine started RC with a 3D gas plane, and now that plane is lying in pieces! Point is, he just got himself a Bixler with a pair 2200 LiPo's. :)
 

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