June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
26.1490.1 - 26.1490.3
Teaching STEM Through an Indoor Skydiving Experience (Curriculum Exchange)Abstract This paper describes a curriculum and associated delivery strategy for teaching scientific andmathematical principles of fluid dynamics through a unique indoor skydiving experience in avertical wind tunnel. iFLY Corporation owns and operates these facilities world-wide, and makesthem available to K-12 groups at discounted rates for educational purposes. The program isdesigned to enhance students’ understanding of how fluids produce forces on moving objects andhow these forces are influenced by the shape and size of an object and the velocity of the fluidstream. An understanding of fluid dynamics is critically important in engineering of aircraft,ships, cars, bridges, and buildings, in sports such as swimming, running, cycling, and skiing, andin earth sciences such as meteorology and oceanography.The curriculum includes a combination of visual presentation, quantitative experimentation, andcalculational activities, combined with an individual flight experience in an iFLY vertical windtunnel. It is primarily targeted at grade levels 5-7 to reinforce force and motion scienceobjectives and transition-to-algebra math objectives, but has also been piloted at lower andhigher grade levels with appropriate adjustments to the presentation and calculational content.All elements of the program are keyed to state and national math and science curriculumstandards.The visual segment includes demonstrations to introduce key concepts: • Wind tunnels: how they work, energy transformations, and applications; • Distinction between fluids and solids, types of fluids, density and viscosity; • Pressure and friction forces in fluids, aerodynamic lift and drag; and • Equilibrium of forces for an object in free flight: gravitational vs. drag forces.Students subsequently participate in a real-time wind tunnel experiment coordinated with theirindividual flight experience, during which they record their equilibrium “terminal” velocities,then measure and record weight and body dimensions on a worksheet for subsequent analysis.The flight experience, which includes training in basic skydiving procedures and proper safetyequipment, is carried out under the guidance of a certified flight instructor.The analysis activity uses measured data recorded during the experiment to demonstrate theapplication of important science and math skills, including: • Relating mass to weight using gravitational acceleration; • Calculating areas of various body elements represented as geometric shapes; • Using algebraic equations to relate a predicted quantity to measured variables; • Comparing calculated vs. measured results and rationalizing discrepancies; and • Using simple statistics to account for uncertainty in measured quantities.Links to a complete set of teacher resources are provided.
Schmidt, P. S., & Soontornvat, C., & Wallock, S. B. (2015, June), Teaching STEM Through an Indoor Skydiving Experience (Curriculum Exchange) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24827
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