Science Olympiad Coaches
The SO Coaches job is incredibly difficult, having to manage a blend of study, lab, and build events, while keeping the students from doing damage! NFFS is working to provide a broad range of resources to help your students excel in the flying events. We recognize that many head coaches have no experience in flying indoor models, so we want to maximize your team’s chance of success.
Recognize that, unlike other SO build events, this is NOT a design event, but rather a flight optimization event. Therefore, KITS ARE ALLOWED, and they provide a great starting point for teams that are new to flying events. A number of the kit makers on the resources page have excellent instruction manuals, and even online videos of the build process. We put together our own online build, which was a zoom build with about 20 students, of an AMA P-18 model. This model has similar dimensions and mass as the SO planes, so the build techniques are similar. With the weight minimum in the rules, the students should be able to build to weight with careful glue management, using locally sourced materials.
As a coach, be sure to acquire the proper tools for your students, including building boards, knives, glue, winder, torque meter (highly recommended), etc. Most of the kits will include a list of required tools, as does this set of tips from Jeff Englert.
The second HUGE area of need for coach input is a flying site. This should be a gymnasium or ballroom, preferably with girders or ceiling at 24 feet or higher. School gyms are often in use for sports, so you may need to call in some favors or get some gym time at odd hours. A strong team will have at least a weekly 2-hour flying session throughout the season. The HVAC system should be off, if at all possible, as these planes can get pretty beat up from the air blowers.
Third, provide a safe place to build and store the planes. Light breezes will destroy these planes, so a plastic bin of appropriate size is important. I prefer a bin large enough to store the assembled plane. Small chunks of foam can be inserted with hot melt glue, with a slit to capture the motor stick of the plane. Having a bin large enough for the assembled plane takes some variability out on the day of the event.
Finally, as coach, insist on flight logs. While these are required at the contest, just meeting the minimum log requirement is not sufficient for success. Every flight should be logged, changing one variable at a time. The logs can be studied to find trends and to optimize results. The coach, if not involved in the flying sessions, should insist on reviewing the logs with the students weekly, and asking what the students find meaningful in the results.