STEAM Takes Flight at Cerro Villa Middle School

Orange, CA – August 11, 2020 – The spirit of the Wright Brothers is alive and well at Cerro Villa Middle School, where a full-scale replica of the 1902 Wright Brothers Glider sits in the auditorium. The glider, which is 32 feet from wing tip to wing tip, sits on pedestals that are four feet high, creating the illusion of flight. It is, in a word, magnificent.

Cerro Villa’s Makers Club members, coordinated by CTE/STEM Teacher Dan Baker, met once per week for two years to complete the project. His students are the first in California, and the third in the nation, to take on this engineering feat.

In addition to using precision artisanship to measure, design, cut, bend, and shape metal and wood, students learned to sew and how to perform calculations to engineer the wings with just the right camber to create lift.  They researched modern resources to use in place of some of the specialty materials originally used by the Wright Brothers, such as long pieces of spruce wood for the wing lengths and ash wood for the ribs of their glider and custom-fabricate special brackets.

“None of us knew how to build an airplane.  Let alone a specialized airplane like this one,” stated Baker. “We had to learn forgotten skills that were much more common back in 1902, like how to lash wooden sticks together with waxed twine, which is how the entire aircraft was fastened together.  Not nails, not screws, just twine. Then there was wood bending, which is a craft that demands lots of trial and error to learn. We are all very excited about what we created.”

Once students are allowed to return to campus, each of the Makers will carve their names into the struts and pose for pictures with the glider. Baker also hopes that the students can take a field trip to the desert to see the craft in action, planning to fly it the same way the Wright Brothers did, by attaching cables and allowing the wind to lift like a huge kite.

Community support was instrumental to the project, which was made possible by a generous grant from the Villa Park Rotary Club. Rotarian Peter Giacobbi and Cerro Villa parent Steve Garner also provided custom metal parts in place of the specialized hardware fabricated by the Wright Brothers.

Baker was inspired by the Canyon High School Aviation program to add a flight simulator to his middle school CTE/STEM lab, leading to his interest in the Wright Brothers and the idea to have students build a replica glider.

The 1902 Wright Brothers Glider is featured in a YouTube video by Baker at https://youtu.be/tJhHjegAnqs.

A photo gallery featuring the glider is available at https://bit.ly/2PInI4g.

 

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The Orange Unified School District educates approximately 28,000 K-12 grade students in the Cities of Orange, Villa Park, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and unincorporated county areas.  In partnership with our community, we provide a safe, equitable, and innovative culture of learning for each scholar to have a competitive EDGE as a leader.