When teacher Stephen Foster realized his woodshop class was bored fifteen years ago, he started a new project, having students build an airplane and strengthen their achievements.
He knew that the students were warehoused in the class, failing or just no one knew what to do with them. He knew that they didnt want to build cutting boards, and he didn’t want to teach cutting boards. But airplanes – now there was an interesting project!
So he told them, “We’re going to build an airplane.”
Yes, a real airplane that could fly. Suddely his class attendance soared, from 60 to 95 percent. Students were engaged in the new project. And while building an airplane, they were also learning physics, algebraic formulas and thrust, drag, lift and weight. When they mounted a weed-eater’s motor on the plane, topped it off with a maple propeller and proudly fired it up, they had achieved success. For some, for the very first time.
That plane now hangs on the wall at Weber Institute of Applied Science and Technology’s Aviation Through Engineering hangar, where an open house Tuesday drew dozens of students and community visitors to learn more about the two-year-old program’s innovative path to advanced engineering studies. Students in the program will do everything from fabricating aircraft parts to building a biplane that can reach speeds of 90 miles an hour.
“All these kids around here, how many of them really think they can be a pilot? Or work on an airplane?” Foster said. “In their mind, being a pilot, being in aviation, is a fantasy. It’s something that rich white people do for a hobby.”
That’s a misperception the longtime teacher is committed to changing.
The airline industry is projected to lose a third of its work force in the next 10 years to retirement, Foster said, and “they know they’re going to need to reach out to underrepresented groups, different economic groups.”