June 6, 2008

Kids Get Insight into Flight from FRCSW Engineers

By Jim Markle

By combining paper airplanes with a lot of fun, engineers from Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) introduced 22 fifth-graders from Hancock Elementary School to the aerodynamics of flight during Naval Air Systems Command’s Science Enrichment Day May 22.

Part of the Navy’s Partnership in Education program, the 17th annual visit was kicked off by electronics engineer Melinda Wasche who presented a slideshow of aircraft serviced by FRCSW.

She explained the major components of an aircraft and their relation to the four forces affecting flight: lift, weight, thrust, and drag.

“For a plane to fly straight and level the lift has to be equal to the weight, and the thrust has to be equal to the drag,” she said.

Wasche also explained how jet propulsion engines push an aircraft forward, while propeller engines pull an aircraft forward.

Materials engineer Paul Johnson followed the presentation with a rousing video of the Navy’s Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team in action.

“Really cool!” said Chris, age 12.


Like a baseball pitcher on the mound, Teshanee, 10, foreground, winds up to test fly her paper airplane, while Jazalyn, 11, successfully launches her plane as FRCSW electronics engineer ShuJen Walker looks on. Photo by Joe Feliciano

However, Teshanne, 10, said: “That doesn’t make me want to fly. It looks too scary.”

To gain a better understanding of the mechanics of flight, material engineer Jennifer Hickman challenged the students to create three different paper airplane designs: Wildcat, Jive, and Jazz. The planes would undergo a bulls-eye test for accuracy; a control and maneuverability test; and a test for distance.

The children were divided into five groups and the airplane production began. Each plane required seven to nine folds.

“I like the idea of coming here to help the students learn about avionics, engineering, and airplanes. Hopefully, in the future, it will interest them in college and they might enter engineering as their field,” said electronics engineer Shu Jen Walker.

As he followed the diagram to make his airplane, Anthony, age 10, said he had other ideas about his future: “I really don’t want to be a scientist or an airplane pilot. I want to be a Navy SEAL because I want to protect the country.”

Electronics engineer Dennis Tagulao and electronic engineering technician Bob Crawford showed their groups how the positioning of paperclips on the tail sections of the paper planes affect maneuverability and flight angle.

Soon, airplanes were soaring throughout the school auditorium, as the children lined up at the testing stations to watch the principles of aerodynamics in action.

“When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I always enjoyed field trips and people coming to the school to teach us things. I really took all of that in and just want to give back for what others gave me,” said aerospace engineer Maziar Sefidan.

“We do our best to make science fun for the kids with hands-on learning. Next week, we’ll take our static electricity demonstration to Willow Elementary School in San Ysidro,” Johnson said.

In addition to Hancock and Willow Elementary schools, FRCSW engineers also provide scientific displays and demonstrations to Salt Creek Elementary School in Chula Vista, and George Nicoloff Elementary School in San Ysidro.

FRCSW is Commander Naval Air Forces’ West Coast aircraft repair depot to intermediate facility specializing in the support of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and related systems.

Return to the Frontpage