GS Hat Trick: Blow Dryers, Lego, and Indoor Skydiving
Girl Scouts Learn About STEM at iFly Dallas
By Bernard Ford
A feature on iFLY in the Dallas Morning News piqued our interest in the organization and the indoor skydiving experience. What better way to introduce middle-school students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) than through indoor skydiving? After a little research, we learned that the Dallas iFLY location launched a pilot education program that sought to connect students to the STEM in their indoor skydiving experience. The education program began with a lecture on the various factors that impact flight such as terminal velocity, drag, gravity, resistance, etc. The program featured students making predications on how objects would fly in the wind tunnel, a variety of demonstrations from the iFLY instructors and a session on calculating terminal velocity. When the education program concluded, each student got two one-minute flight sessions to experience the STEM firsthand.
After a few conversations, we decided that the program offered by iFLY would be a great fit for a Connect a Million Minds STEM in Sports event with one of our local partners. Connect a Million Minds is the Time Warner Cable philanthropic initiative to inspire the next generation of problem solvers, igniting enthusiasum for STEM in our young people. We had established great partnership several organizations in the Dallas area, but our partnership the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas Council was especially strong. The organization has strong commitment to hands-on STEM with underserved students through their Girl Scouts Direct program, a program that gives underserved girls the traditional girl scout experience in the afterschool setting.
We encountered a couple of roadblocks with the project. iFLY intended the education program to be a summer offering or a field trip option for students because of the program length and space requirements. Most of our CAMM programming occurs on Saturdays and as you can imagine Saturday is one of iFLY busiest days. We also wanted to open this experience up to 100 girl scouts and add a few additional elements to the education program to ensure the girls stayed involved when they were not flying or in the STEM. To ensure the girls got the full flight experience and the entire education program, we shifted the program to begin bright and early on a Saturday morning.
Our second roadblock came as a result of us shifting the time to begin at 8 A.M. on a Saturday. This shift made things much easier for iFLY but it created a barrier for the girl scouts. The girls that would be attending the program would be coming from the girl scout’s southern office, which was at least 35-40 minutes south of iFLY’s Dallas location. The girl scouts had the brilliant idea of hosting a sleepover the night before the event to ensure the girls got to the project on time; this also alleviated the transportation issue that many of the girls would have faced trying to get to the iFLY location.
The girls arrived bright and early, eager to experience the wind tunnel and indoor skydiving. They were actively engaged during the lecture and all the labs. iFLY expanded the education program from the lecture and demonstration by adding two STEM labs to the day. One lab challenged the girls to use elements from the science of flight lecture to design and build a parachute that could safely lower cargo to the ground below. Another lab asked the girls to construct their own wind tunnels using a blow dryer and Legos. Of course, the flight sessions were the highlight of the day. The girls accepted the challenge of facing wind speeds of up to 150 mph with amazing confidence and bravo. As you can see in the video, the girls enjoyed themselves and we feel our goal of connecting students to unique and hands-on STEM learning opportunities was reached.
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