School lets teens' aviation dreams take flight

Posted March 6, 2011 1:22 p.m. EST

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, visits a Seattle high school where students interested in an aviation career are taking flight.

Aviation High School is near Seattle's airport, and science teacher Scott McComb used that as an inspiration for his project for his class full of freshmen.

For six months, students worked in teams of three to design a highly efficient, lightweight wing structure made of paper mache.

"Many of people have an idea of engineering and science as being inaccessible. (Students think) 'I can't do that. I don't know how. It's too big. It requires too much math,'" McComb said.

"In fact," he continued, "it's about diligence. It's about good observations. It's about good teamwork. And these are skills which anybody can learn."

During the final round of testing, several local aeronautical engineers volunteered to analyze the students' inventions.

Students included the data and observations from these tests in a presentation to the engineers. They then picked the best design.

The engineer judges said they were impressed by the students and their work.

"They're articulate. They know what they're about. They know what they've learned," said Mike Bonftiz, an engineer with the Federal Aviation Adminstration engineer.

"For ninth graders to pull off something like that is absolutely remarkable."