One Teacher’s Aviation Education Focus

2003 Aerospace Educator of the Year
Alan Schmidt

As a Physics, Chemistry, Science Research and Aviation Instructor at Northeast Magnet High School, Alan Schmidt was 2003’s Aerospace Educator of the Year. Long interested in aviation, he has been working aviation-related projects into his class curriculums for many years.

He sponsored such aviation-oriented events as “The Wright Stuff” and “Bottle Rockets” in the Science Olympiad and coached the Junior Academy of Science from 1995 to 2003. In 1999, he supervised a student who went on to win first place at state with a project dealing with aircraft composites. Others have since researched, experimented and presented similar project papers.

Schmidt coordinated student volunteers for the 2002 “Autumn in the Air” festival which celebrated Wichita’s aviation heritage. He was awarded a grant as part of the Read Across America Program sponsored by the National Education Association to purchase books to help students better understand space concepts.

Of great importance were Schmidt’s efforts in developing and receiving approval for a new course, Aviation Science. This course teaches concepts of aerospace engineering. After two years of having largely male enrollees, Schmidt successfully promoted the class and increased the female enrollment to about one-third. In the spring of 2003, the Devore Foundation presented Schmidt the Excellence in Public Service Award in part for the development of an aviation curriculum and involving youth and young women in aviation.

Educational Philosophy: Students learn by solving problems that relate to real life. This helps engage the students in the learning process and prepares them for the real world.

Aviation Science

This course will focus on the aerodynamics, structure, propulsion and stability of various types of aircraft. Related topics involving the dynamics of flight will also be introduced. Students will experience applications of concepts through research projects and laboratory experimentation. Area colleges and aircraft industries will provide resources for this course such as field trips, materials and mentors. Students completing this course should have an understanding of basic aircraft design leading into fields such as engineering and aircraft related industries.

Course Outcomes

  • Students will understand the history and development of aircraft
  • Students will understand the physics of flight including lift, weight, drag and thrust
  • Students will understand the importance of aerodynamics, stability, structure and propulsion of an aircraft
  • Students will understand how industries design and build aircraft
  • Students will design, construct and test aircraft models in order to understand the engineering process
  • Students will explore careers that are related to the aircraft industries


  • Students will research a time period in aviation and report in oral and written form about airplanes within the period.
  • Students will construct models of airplanes and report to the class the importance of the airplanes and their aerodynamic features.
  • Students will study principles of physics and do laboratory experiments to develop an understanding of motion, force, fluid dynamics and pressure.
  • Parachute Lab- Calculations of velocity, acceleration and drag force will be done in a series of labs using a falling parachute diver
  • Buoyancy Lab- Students will do a series of labs which will involve finding the density of materials using the buoyancy force in a liquid
  • Lift and Buoyancy Lab-Students will construct a hot air balloon and calculate the volume and lift of the balloon. The gas pressure laws will be used to do this activity
  • Laminar Flow Lab-Students will calculate the viscosity of fluids using Stokes Law. Data will be taken and calculations will produce values for viscosity
  • Airfoil Dynamics Lab- Students will use a wind tunnel and observe smoke flow over an airfoil. They will also take measurements of lift versus angle of attack and graph the data. Coefficient of lift will also be determined
  • Vectors-Students will calculate vectors using maps
  • Designing Model Glider-Students will work with mentors in class and build a glider. This glider must be constructed from a series of sketches that the student produces. The glider will be built and “trimmed” for maximum flight time.
  • The load to lift ratio will be determined.
  • Powered Model-Students will design and construct a powered model airplane. This will be done under the supervision of mentors. The model must be “trimmed” for maximum flight time.
  • Tours of Raytheon Corporation, Boeing Corporation, and Cessna Corporation will expose the students to the engineering processes of producing an airplane. Students will observe the use of Computer Aided Design sketches. Students will also observe production of the aircraft including use of composite materials to construct airplanes.
  • Aircraft Research- Students will visit the National Institute for Aeronautical Research at Wichita State University. They will visit the wind tunnel, composites lab and water tunnel.
  • Students will hear guest speakers which will consist of pilots, engineers, historians and marketing personal in order to understand careers in aviation. Students will research a possible career in aviation.