STEM day: North Spark, students explore science of flight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Roxanne Belovarac
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing

Thirty sixth grade students from Nathan Twining Elementary and Middle School here visited the North Spark Defense Laboratory to explore different concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM.

This partnership was the first of its kind, allowing experts at North Spark to provide the students a day full of activities focusing on the principles of flight, pressure in dynamic systems, and aerodynamics.

“Our people at North Spark are passionate about integrating science and technology into the base and the wing,” said Lt. Col. Michael Dunn, the senior advisor for North Spark Defense Laboratory. “We were able to work with the students and teach them how STEM is a part of everyday life through the Air Force perspective.”

North Spark provided an ideal creative workspace for the day’s activities.

“Being able to work with North Spark for activities like this one is a big advantage for our students,” said Stephanie Olson, a sixth grade teacher at Nathan Twining Elementary and Middle School. “The students get to have fun and work hands-on with not only tools they probably wouldn’t have anywhere else, but they also get to learn from an expert in the field they are learning about.”

Dunn led the day, going over the different concepts with the students.

Learning the importance of engineering an aircraft, the students were shown how the shape of an airplane’s wings helps create lift through changing the air pressure around itself.

To understand the science of how air pressure works further, the students participated in an activity trying to push two cans away from each other by only blowing air between them. The fast air moving between the can creates a pocket of low pressure and pulls the cans toward each other rather than blowing them apart.

In order to comprehend how technology and mathematics work in aerodynamics, the students designed their own paper airplanes and threw them across the room to see whose could fly the farthest.

Each experiment was intended to highlight a scientific principle that affects flight.

“The kids really enjoyed their time at North Spark,” Olson said. “I would love to continue this partnership with next year’s class as well; working with North Spark and coming out to the lab only adds to the kids’ excitement to learn.”