Bringing STEAM to Life
By Megan Tucker
When Megan Tucker’s annual Flight Funday Fest lifted off at Hillsboro Charter Academy, in Hillsboro, Va., in June, it was a community collaboration that drew together dozens of students and volunteers from AFA and Civil Air Patrol, along with aviation authors, commercial pilots and flight attendants, and a local meteorologist. Together, they executed a jam-packed day of aviation science and fun. an exciting day of fun and learning for the kids.
Tucker’s enthusiasm for flight is nothing new. The 2021 Air & Space Forces Association/Rolls-Royce National STEM Teacher of the Year, an AFA member herself, revived Flight Funday Fest after a two-year, COVID-19-induced hiatus. To do so, she pulled in support and encouragement from AFA volunteers including Jim Hannam (former vice chairman for aerospace education), Melanie Jones (representing the Gen. Charles A. Gabriel Chapter), and AFA Board Member Susan Mallett, who traveled from Alabama to participate.
Flight Funday kicked off with the posting of colors by a CAP Cadet Color Guard from the Leesburg Composite Squadron, and continued with a remote-control airplane demonstration, motivational talks on mentorship and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. School principal Paul Vickers addressed the students while flying as a passenger in a CAP Cessna, and hands-on activities continued throughout the day.
Students took part in rotating, volunteer-led sessions, such as hoop glider and whirly-gig engineering, rotorcraft design, flight, aviation-associated meteorology, thermal effects, and drone pilot instruction with stunt flying and virtual reality goggles.
Tucker is Hillsboro Charter Academy’s Dean of Curriculum and the school’s STEAM—that’s STEM plus art—specialist. She’s also a member of AFA’s Gabriel Chapter. In planning the day, she built in time for an aviation-themed movie at lunchtime and a student challenge: build an aircraft using manipulatable playground equipment. The day concluded with fifth-grade students performing a rocket-launching demonstration and the Smokehouse Pilots Flying Club demonstrating formation flying and skywriting overhead in two RV-7 aircraft.
“Civil Air Patrol and the Air & Space Forces Association are proud to jointly support teachers across the nation,” said Mallett, AFA Central Area Board Member and CAP National HQ Education Outreach coordinator. “This flight day is an example of how any AFA chapter can join forces with CAP to support STEM programs for local teachers at no cost.”
Mallet invited others to contact her and other volunteers for help in building their own collaborations in their home areas.
The real beneficiaries of the fun and opportunity were the kids. “We worked really hard on our rockets,” said one fifth-grader, Cameron. “The best part of Flight Funday Fest for me was launching them into the sky at the end.”
Two AFA Members Inducted into AFC4A Hall of Fame
The Air Force Communications, Command and Control, and Computers Association (AFC4A) on May 2 inducted two Air & Space Forces Association members into their Hall of Fame. The Class of 2020 included Maj. Gen. Earl Matthews and Col. Richard Lipsey. Brig. Gen. Walter Jones and Col. Philip Heacock were also inducted.
The AFC4A Hall of Fame recognizes and honors military personnel and civil servants who made significant contributions toward innovation, creativity, and application of new technologies. Matthews finished his career as Director of Cyberspace, OSD, Pentagon; and Lipsey as vice commander, 24th Air Force, the USAF component of U.S. Cyber Command.
Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Lauren Knausberger, CIO for the Department of the Air Force, and Jim Lauducci, also a Hall of Fame inductee and former AFA Vice Chairman of the Board for Field Operations. The 92 inductees to date include such luminaries as Gen. Edwin Rawlings (also honored by AFA with a Citation of Honor in 1958), Lt. Gen. Lee Paschell, Lt. Gen. Harold Grant, and Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell.