2016-10-14 / Schools
Students take flight in new tech center
State-of-the-art simulators give them real-world insight into aviation industry
Last year, Diallo Wallace taught his aviation academy students about flight dynamics mostly by writing out equations on a white board and supplementing the lessons with field trips to Naval Base Ventura County and SpaceX in Hawthorne.
“This was last year,” the aerospace engineer and former Navy helicopter pilot said, pointing to the white board he uses in his class. “I’m going off of two-dimensional space here. I’m very limited in doing things.”
This year, Wallace has an array of state-of-the art flight simulators at his command.
“That’s three-dimensional,” he said, pointing to four rows of new computers programmed with the latest software by Lockheed Martin. “Now, when you add in a time component, it becomes temporal. So now I can say to my students, ‘Do you have enough fuel to get to where you need to go?’ It becomes real to them.”
After 18 months of planning, design and construction, the Ventura County Office of Education’s new TECH center, or Testing and Evaluation Collaboration Hub, is as real as it gets, said David Brown of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Brown, the DoD’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for developmental test and evaluation, flew in from Washington, D.C., to help officially open the new center Tuesday.
“This TECH (center) was created to actually be a real test and evaluation hub,” said Brown, who also is director of the DoD’s 40,000-employee Test Resource Management Center. “We’re calling these things simulators. Well, ‘simulators’ doesn’t mean they’re fake. It is the same software that is on the F-35 (fighter jet).”
Assembly member Jacqui Irwin and County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth joined more than a dozen officials for the center’s grand opening at the county education office’s Career Education Center at Camarillo Airport.
One of only three such classrooms in the nation, the approximately $400,000 center has banks of computer simulators, three enclosed flight simulators that resemble airplane cockpits and a simulated air traffic control tower.
The project was jointly funded by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, the county education office and individual school districts, said Tiffany Morse, the county’s executive director of career education.
Under the agreement among the partners, the county education office will maintain the TECH center, she said.
Wallace’s 27-student aviation academy class meets three hours once a week at the Camarillo center. The rest of week, students study lessons on the internet.
Middle and high school students from throughout the county also will get to use the center. Most are taking science, technology, engineering and math classes, Morse said.
“We have a full aviation academy that’s run here, with the classes that Wallace teaches, and then we have classes that want to come,” she said. “They just sign up for either a day or two days or a week—however they want to use the facility that fits into their curriculum.”
Increasingly, school districts around the county are implementing career-oriented curricula, sometimes called career pathways, that integrate special labs, workshops or equipment to provide students with hands-on learning.
The new TECH center does that in the field of aviation, but on a high-tech level, officials said.
The center is partnering with Point Mugu, “one of 23 branches that work on T and E (testing and evaluation) with the Department of Defense,” Brown said.
“ So they ( students) are actually doing real testing in here. They’re doing real scenarios. They’re taking data, doing real analysis, real evaluation. They are real operators and real testers from day one.”
The budding aeronautics engineers, scientists, pilots and researchers in Wallace’s aviation academy crave real-world experiences, he said.
“The biggest thing when I ask my students, ‘What do you want more of?’ they say they’d like to see more of what they’re learning in action,” he said. “I think that’s what this generation is looking for. They want to know the academics, but they want to see how it specifically works in the real world.”