This past Saturday morning, I took a beautiful autumnal drive (attention leaf-peepers: you are bottlenecking the Mass Pike) about 2 hours west to Westfield Massachusetts. My destination was Barnes Airport, home to the Massachusetts chapter of the Wright Flight program. This wonderful program's mission is to use the inherent motivational power of aviation as a stimulus for students to set and achieve higher goals in their educational and personal development. Wright Flight partners with local schools to give students the opportunity to learn about aviation careers through an extensive academic program and orientation flight.
This Saturday was an important day for the program's Aviation II class, consisting of 9 high school students who aspire to be pilots and engineers in the future.
Bill Coughlen and Don Nicoletti of Wright Flight approached Kubotek USA several months ago, asking if we could make a special presentation to the students on the importance of CAD in aviation and in the aircraft design process. I jumped at the chance to work with the students and constructed an informative yet dynamic and eye-catching PowerPoint for the kids. The cool pens, pencils and bowl of Hershey's chocolate items never hurts either... I included some video footage I personally took at this past summer's EAA AirVenture air show up in Oshkosh Wisconsin. After my presentation, I let the students play around in KeyCreator themselves, which I had on three laptops I brought with me.
I have a soft spot for aircraft, air shows and airports because my father is a pilot. I am no stranger to the truly lovely smell of aircraft fuel and large components of homebuilts in my basement.
Despite the fact that attention spans of high school students certainly rival that of a fruit fly, I was very pleased to see that these guys (and one lovely young gal) were quite interested, their eyes glued to the screen. There were multiple questions asked throughout the morning, including how exactly a 3D printer works, how to turn the 'spaghetti' (several long cylindrical extrusions I made during a live KeyCreator demonstration for them) green, how to put purple spaghetti sauce on them, how to rotate individual models on the screen and how I got my job here at Kubotek USA in the first place. I was happy to admit that it had nothing to do with my skills in the pasta-cooking department, although I had in fact eaten Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner the night before.
Ultimately, it was a success and I think the students' eyes were opened to the limitless possibilities inherent with CAD software and a future in engineering.
The maraschino cherry on top of the pumpkin cream cupcake for ME, though, was an invitation for a quick flight in an aerobatic Decathlon plane after the presentation. Bob Cipolli, an aerobatic pilot who works for Hamilton Sunstrand and is a volunteer for the Wright Flight program, had the Decathlon sitting around the back of Barnes Airport, nestled between a hangar and a few other aircraft. Across the runway, an F-15 jet was visible; Barnes is also a U.S. Air Force Base.
My bonus flight was great. This was my first experience in an aerobatic power plane, although I have had time in an aerobatic glider at Sterling Airport. After donning a parachute and running through some pre-flight tasks, we flew about 17 miles away from the airport, a requirement in order to do any aerobatic maneuvers. I requested Bob to put me under several G's, enough to get an adrenalin rush and very sparkly vision. Mission completed, we returned to Barnes and safely landed.
I am heavily considering returning for a follow up flight or two, to attack a few loops or rolls (though no stalls).