Summer Camp on the SUN ‘n FUN campus is not your father’s summer camp.
Here in sunny Florida on the southside of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (KLAL), during the seventh year of the camp, 96 students enjoyed learning about aviation from experts.
One year, Patty Wagstaff dropped in to talk about unusual attitude recovery.
“We want the campers to experience and understand the many facets of aviation,” said Richele Floyd, the new education director.Floyd has taught the STEMtastic camp in previous summers when she worked at Bok Academy in Lake Wales, Florida. She is now a full-time staff member of SUN ‘n FUN.
The campers were divided into two groups: Destination Aviation and STEMtastic.
Destination Aviation Camp
The main differences between Destination Aviation Camp and STEMtastic Day Camp are the ages of the campers and the fact that Destination Aviation Campers log actual flight time with a certified flight instructor.
Destination Aviation, for students 11 to 18 years old, expanded to six week-long sessions this year.
Instructor Mick McCarty, who flew a Cobra helicopter in the Army, led the Destination Aviation campers through lessons in aerodynamics, meteorology, technology, aircraft maintenance, flight planning, preflight procedures, and cockpit instruments.
Destination Aviation offered day camp and residential camp for each session.
Students arrived from Canada, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, and Virginia. In previous years, students have also come from Connecticut, Colorado, Italy, France, and South Africa.
Sixteen students received partial scholarships through the Aerospace Center for Excellence and one received a full scholarship from the OX5 Aviation Pioneers Club.
Meteorologist George Bartuska taught weather planning as part of the ground school training. He introduced students to weather instruments, such as the once top-secret cavity magnetron, the Robinson cup anemometer, the Sling psychrometer, and radar.
Campers also toured the Lakeland Control Tower, a corporate hangar and aircraft owned by the Publix Corporation, and the 58,000-square foot National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center.
In June, the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center moved from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to KLAL. The Aircraft Operations Center serves as the main base for three hurricane hunter aircraft and six other specialized environmental data-gathering planes.
The center also includes aircraft repair facilities, storage, and office space for the 110 civilians and officers of the NOAA Corps.
With the understanding that they will apply their knowledge later in actual flight, the students asked many questions and took notes.
They performed practice flights on simulators, but the highlight of the week for Destination Aviation campers was the cross-country flight with FlightSafety International in Vero Beach. For many of them, this was their first actual flight lesson, their first opportunity to put theory into practice.
Students either brought logbooks or received a note documenting their dual flight time in a Piper Cherokee or Cadet.
At the end of the camp, the students conducted a Teach-Back Open House for their families. In one example, a team of students presented takeoff procedures and instrument readings for a Cessna 172 using a projected flight simulation as a visual aid. Each member of the team demonstrated a smooth takeoff while naming the conditions, airspeed, and other factors that affect the take off.
STEMtastic Day Camp
The goal of STEMtastic day camp, according to Floyd, is to “introduce youth to the world of aviation with hands-on activities using STEM learning techniques.”
STEM represents science, technology, engineering, and math. Lessons are taught by certified educators from STEM-based schools. Instructors Felisha Cassen, Keith Edgeworth, and Janice Katz each spent a week with the students.
STEMtastic day camp held three week-long sessions for students aged 7 to 12.
Two STEMtastic students received sponsorships from the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots of Florida.
During the camp, 33 students explored the principles of aerodynamics, weather and weather instruments, math, propulsion, simple robotics, and toured the Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum.
The day camp introduced students to robotics, rocketry, wave forms, nature, and many aspects of aviation. They crafted parachutes from household materials, such as string, paper napkins, and plastic army men. Later, they tested their parachutes.
The students also conducted a scavenger hunt in the Florida Air Museum, took a class in the Piedmont Aerospace Lab, and practiced on flight simulators in the Buehler Aerospace Skills Center.
Led by experts in their fields, the students also learned about careers offered in the world of aviation.
Of course, there was also time for play. At lunchtime, after campers tested their homemade parachutes, they took turns climbing into a small static display biplane to work the rudders and yoke and their imaginations. A few of the boys supplied their own engine sounds while pretending to fly aerobatic maneuvers and strafe enemy targets.