Nampa teacher brings flying into the classroom

NAMPA — Flying an aircraft is fascinating and just plain fun for Chris Anderson. He’s been flying planes for 24 years as a hobby and now is bringing his experience into the classroom.

“I’m giving relatable material to my students,” Anderson said, a chemistry teacher at Nampa High School. “I’m providing students with my experiences in the air.”

Anderson created a physics of flight lesson plan for students who are interested in aviation. His curriculum recently won the Gowen Thunder STEM Challenge award, which is a grant through the Idaho STEM Action Center.

His course focuses on the four forces of flight (weight, lift, thrust and drag) and Bernoulli’s principle of velocity and pressure. Anderson gives students an overview on how wings of birds work and relates the airflow to how wings on a plane work.

“This is a way to connect what students are learning in the classroom with real-world principles,” Anderson said. “The intention was to provide this lesson to freshmen only, but I modified the lesson so it goes across different interest groups.”

Students are learning how wing shape dictates how an aircraft performs. Once students understand the basic principles of flight, they will design their own aircraft wing, 3D print a model of it and test it in a wind tunnel.

As part of the Gowen Thunder STEM Challenge, Anderson’s 40 students will experience a preview of the Gowen Thunder 2017 airshow on Friday and will participate in an Army simulation. The airshow is hosted this weekend at Gowen Field featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Royal Canadian Snowbirds.

Students have designed and built test wings using a 3D printer.

“You can study and read how planes work all day, but to look at the detail in person will be very enlightening,” said Nick Montz, a senior at Nampa High School.

Nick plans to enroll in the Navy after high school and would like to work in the nuclear program on an aircraft carrier. He is taking the physics of flight course to familiarize himself with aviation and the basics of flight.

Nick Montz

“This class is real for me because (Anderson) is able to explain how things work because he’s been in the air firsthand,” Nick said. “All my questions are answered and I get a real understanding of what I can do.”

Nearly 3,000 students will attend a preview of the Gowen Thunder 2017 airshow on Friday.

Gowen Thunder STEM Challenge winners:

  • Rebecca Torek, an electronics teacher at Meridian Technical Charter High School.
  • Aaron McKinnon, a science teacher at South Junior High School.
  • Christy Schwehr, a sixth-grade teacher at Shadow Hills Elementary School.
  • Sonia Galaviz, a fifth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School.
  • Christi Thornsberry, a fifth-grade teacher at Spalding STEM Academy.

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