NFFS and Science Olympiad
Ray Harlan, Science Olympiad Coordinator
By now, nearly all of you have heard of or seen Science Olympiad Wright Stuff models. Many of you have been helping middle and high school students learn to build and fly a simple rubber-powered indoor model for their competitions. The Science Olympiad program is the single greatest opportunity to introduce students to model airplanes that has ever been created. More than 13000 schools participate at the regional, state and national level. Other science-oriented events in this program are also fascinating and challenging.
What You Can Do
Nearly all of the teachers involved with SO are desperate for help. Typically, they have never built a model airplane, let alone flown one. While many of the steps required to build a model are given in model kits (to varying degrees of completeness), there is nothing like having someone experienced in model building to show students how to get the job done. If everyone in NFFS gave six hours to get a model built and a few more to help get it flying, the anxiety level of those teachers would disappear and the students would be thrilled. I have taught Wright Stuff in middle schools for more than five years and it probably is the most popular event of all.
How can you contact SO in your area? Go to the national Web site www.soinc.org and, in the left-hand column, click on State Web Sites. This opens a map of the US. You can click on your state and look for contact info for schools near you, or, back at the map, click on St. Dir’s in the upper left corner. With a little effort, you will get to meet enthusiastic students who won’t believe that a model airplane does something other than fly from their hands to the ground in the blink of an eye.
Getting Into It
Most of you fly outdoor FF and may not be familiar with indoor techniques. There are some resources on the SO website that can help. Go to Resources For Teachers, Coaches, & Students, then to Coaching Information, and Wright Stuff. There you will see some articles on materials, tools and one on making a flight log, a new requirement this year. It has a lot about flying these models.
As for building techniques, here are a few. Use full strength model glue (Ambroid, Duco), not CyA, because it is too brittle. If a model hits a girder, some joints are likely to come loose. Get one of the long glue tips, sold in hobby shops, and attach it to the tube with some construction adhesive (Liquid Nails, PL Premium). Keep a piece of .032 MW in it to prevent clogging when not being used. Apply a 1/32″ – 3/64″ drop to a wing rib and put the rib in place against the spar. Keep the rib plane vertical.
Hold spars down with weights, not pins (pins with Rocket City Pin Clamps may work). Use some large washers for ½” bolts or larger from Home Depot. Just glue the front of the ribs first. Let dry and then glue the rears. Avoid wax paper over the plan; it will slow down glue drying. If just the right amount of glue is used, there won’t be much on the plan and the frame can be cut away with a razor blade. If the model uses an aluminum thrust bearing, be sure to wrap it onto the motorstick with thread before gluing it. There’s nothing worse than having a loose bearing at a contest. It just ruins your day. Do the same for the rear hook. This year’s covering of choice is Mylar. There are several sources; see the SO Web site, Wright Stuff again. Don’t use anything heavier than 2 microns. Apply it with 3M77 Spray Cement. Cut excess with a pencil soldering iron. Wing posts usually are a friction fit in a tissue or plastic tube. They must be carefully sanded down until at least ½” will slide firmly in the tube. Then cut off the loose part and cut to length. If it insists on being too loose everywhere, try wetting it (out of the tube) and letting it dry. The swelling may improve the fit. That’s enough to get started and point out some of the differences between indoor and outdoor construction.
Working with Students
If you are not a teacher by profession, you will find vast differences in maturity and abilities in students. A sixth-grader’s attention span is measured in microseconds; a high school senior can work all day and stay focused. Rest assured, most are very interested. Not all will have the requisite patience. For those, set a simple goal and help them reach it. If more than one modeler can join the building session, all the better. Plan ahead what steps will be covered and work to get all students to the finish line together. It takes about six hours to complete a Wright Stuff model. Be sure to allow enough time for glue to dry. Having building boards made from ceiling tiles and a place to store them allows short sessions.When you find a really interested student who becomes successful in Wright Stuff, you have the opportunity to introduce the other aspects of our hobby. Don’t rush and don’t push your FF agenda hard. You are there to help, not compete for students’ interests. SO people are very grateful for any aid they receive in getting through the building events. Interested students will naturally ask questions about other kinds of models and they can be introduced to them slowly. The rewards are there, although scattered. The entire 2002 Junior Indoor World Championship Team came from SO.
Science Olympiad Tips by Jeff Englert – a great resource
Sources for student materials can be found on the Free Flight Web Sites page.