STEM takes flight with aviation technology

Flight simulators teaching geometry, physics and meteorology
By: | Issue: May, 2015
April 24, 2015

In the middle school STEM lab at New Canaan Public Schools in Connecticut, students frequently choose to learn with flight simulators rather than 3D printers, video games and other technological options.

“It’s definitely our most popular tool,” says Vivian Birdsall, New Canaan’s middle school STEM teacher. “Not only do the flight simulations expose our students to aviation, they’re so exciting and fun that our students often don’t realize how much they’re learning from them.”

For four years, New Canaan has used four dual-screen flight simulators from HotSeat Chassis Inc. While seated, students act as pilot, using one screen as a control panel to pilot a flight in an above screen.

Students have to employ a range of STEM conceptsÑespecially mathÑto fly simulated missions successfully. For example, students have to determine how to best distribute weight on a plane and how to reach a specific altitude in a certain amount of time, says Birdsall.

The simulators also inspired the creation of flying clubs for boys and girls. Students interested in the history of aviation, mechanics and engineering have joined. “There’s no more pushing students into learning math and science,” says Birdsall.

More than 50 schools around the country use or are piloting Hotseat Chassis flight simulators, says Jay Leboff, the owner of the company.

Other school districts, such as New York City and Los Angeles, have used the simulations to teach geometry, physics and meteorology. A new curriculum developed by Leboff also includes writing and researching lessons, based around famous aviators.