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Egg pilots teach aerodynamics on football field

Kenowa Hills —  In the high school football stadium press box – 35 feet above the field – sophomores Seth Peebles and Ashley Bacallao launch their handmade glider plane for its first test flight.

It sails through the air and lands a good distance behind Knights STEM Academy teacher Steven Feutz – a safe landing. 

Sophomore Emily Aldrich yells, “Cassandra survived!”

Cassandra, the egg pilot, was tucked between two small walls and a lid made of foam and secured with rubber bands.

“The egg is the center of gravity, which keeps the plane balanced,” said sophomore Ashley Bacallao. “Aerodynamics is how good the plane can glide and not have a bumpy flight in the air.” 

Aerodynamics in Real Life

Feutz’s students might not be ready to build large aircraft, but they are learning aerodynamics and geometry standards in a combined STEM and geometry class. The students were challenged to design and build a foam glider and fly it farther than it falls with the egg pilot surviving the landing.

“The center of gravity needs to be near the front of the plane; too far back and it falls like a leaf,” Feutz explained. “Too far forward and it nosedives.”

Knights STEM Academy students prepare to launch their handmade glider planes from the Kenowa Hills High School football stadium press box

Groups were given foam and used laser cutting and 3D printing components to build their gliders. “We took inspiration from researching real planes and used materials we had in class to construct it,” Seth said.

‘Aerodynamics is how good the plane can glide and not have a bumpy flight in the air.’

– sophomore Ashley Bacallao

On the field, another plane launched, nosediving to the ground almost right below the press box. Feutz and his student rescue team ran over to recover the pilot.  This egg didn’t make it. 

One of the groups’ gliders achieved a good distance, egg survival and nearly endangering the head of the reporter recording its flight

All was not lost, however; students will have the chance to repair and make changes to their design to fly again in another week. 

Ashley explained why it is important for planes to be aerodynamic. “The president could die,” she said. “Planes need to be safe for the public, so there are no explosions and they stay in the air.”

The ideal flight off the press box is when “the plane glides through the air and lands softly on the ground,” said Emily.

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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