Jay Leboff is a man with a mission. Tickled by the opportunity to facilitate STEM learning in schools as early as elementary and all the way to middle and high, he took the lead from a friend who was teaching math and wanted to use a flight simulator to demonstrate some of principles she was explaining. Jay showed up with a cart with all the needed components and off he went into creating STEMPilot. STEMPilot now provides flight simulation equipment to a number of schools around the country. More importantly, however, they provide a STEM program to go with it. Their program includes a Standard K-12 S.T.E.M. curriculum, a discovery and phenomenon curriculum, media supported lesson plans, and ‘fully tutored’ simulated flights, teaching the basics of aircraft operation. Jay’s philosophy is to organize students into teams of three each. He says: “Groups of three children form ‘flight crews’, working together to encourage collaborative learning. We don’t want to necessarily create pilots, we want to ensure that these students are successful in life, can work as teams and learn STEM in the process. But, has it happens, some get hooked into aviation and we do have a sequitur that facilitates taking the private pilot written exam.”
STEMPilot programs are aligned to the current education standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core, New York City Science Scope & Sequence, and other. Jay: “We want to show children that there are career opportunities. Our clients are all school and we recommend that they start as early as elementary school.”
The sims are a combination of available hardware (Logitech/Saitek Pro Flight controls and instrument displays), while the software is Prepar3D, customized to the lesson plan. Jay: ” We fly the C172. The first flight is down the Hudson River and around the Statue of Liberty, but we fly a lot into boxes in the sky to learn various maneuvers.” STEMPilot offers several missions, as part of the program, see them here, and complete lessons plans here.
STEMPilot also launched SafeDrones, a program to fly drones in the classroom within a curriculum for middle and high schools. It includes the theory of flying quadcopters and, once students have completed five program levels, they get to fly drones indoors. “There is a lot of collaborative learning going on with SafeDrones”, Jay says, “It brings order to school’s chaos of everybody flying drones! This is part of the pathway we are creating to learn to fly. We supply a kit including simulation software which can go on a laptop, we supply five quad-copters, a 20 hours curriculum and lesson plans. All of them include multimedia presentations and we have a training of trainers program so that they can teach it themselves. Students can prepare for a Part 107 unmanned pilot exam, which is a written exam.”
“The sims are not FAA certified, as only 1% of the students turn into actual pilots”, Jay adds.”We have however a partnership with Kings Schools learning platform for those who want to continue and learn and fly more.” I like to talk about one anecdote at Frederick Douglass Academy, NY, where I met a young man, an Asperger spectrum kid who went through our program. He was so captured by aviation that he went on getting a scholarship in aeronautical engineering, with a perfect 4.0 gpa. Guess what? Now he is a CFII (certified flight instructor instrument) with 650 hours [of flight time]” Jay adds: “He remembers everything!”
STEMPilot adds more and more schools to their already long list. We are planning to visit one soon, the AF JROTC program at Multi-Cultural HS in Brooklyn, NY, which runs both SafeDrone and STEMPilot curricula. With the enthusiasm we heard in Jay’s voice, we predict that it’s going to be a great experience.