Science Olympiad Mentors
As an NFFS member, you probably have the “Right Stuff” to mentor a “Wright Stuff” team! Many of these students have never glued together two pieces of wood. A basic understanding of flight, regardless of your favorite discipline, will go a long way to the enjoyment of the students in their first adventures in flight. My personal hobby is R/C pylon racing, a 200 MPH outdoor flying event. This is such a long way from indoor duration flying, but using online resources I was able to adapt my love of flying to something that could help the students. Not only that, they got me hooked, and I had to build and compete in indoor!
Specific resources for mentors are still in planning and development. However, this should not keep you from diving in. If you are interested in mentoring, you can Google “Science Olympiad” and your state, and you should be able to find a link to your state SO organization. They should be able to help you find one or more local schools that may be interested in having a flying event mentor.
If you are working with a school system, you will likely have to go through a background check and other protocols. Be patient, it’s for protection of the kids. It is important to remember that this is a student event. The students MUST build and fly the plane. You may “kit” a plane, though there are highly successful kits and plans out there already. But you may NOT glue or assemble any part of the plane for the kids. Remember, this may be their first chance. Let them do it! You will be surprised how quickly they pick up on new techniques. DO NOT BUILD FOR THEM!
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 helps. 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 too 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, and that tradition continues with the current US Junior team, set to compete in Romania this year.
Flying is the most important aspect of this event. Work with the head coach to gain access to a gymnasium or ballroom. If the school does not have a gym, or cannot get scheduled time, you may need to help them find a facility. While a basketball gym is ideal, they are often hard to gain a time slot. You may be able to find a hotel ballroom, an aircraft hanger, a wedding venue, a church gym, etc. Often you can get reduced or waived fees when you present it as a STEM learning event. A high roof is less important than a smooth ceiling and a lack of air movement! You may need to present proof of insurance to use a facility. Your best route to that is to work with your local club to provide AMA “additional insured” certificate to the owner. Of course, then the youth must be AMA members, but that is a low cost for students under 18.