By John Straubel | Board member, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula
"My head is in the clouds," says 14-year-old Alberto Vilchis, describing his plan for a career in aviation engineering.
Alberto's recent field trip to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos sparked his ambition, especially after managing a tough landing of his Cessna 172 amid rain storms and fog. It was a simulation, but Alberto's experience was compelling at the controls in Hiller's Flight Sim Zone, where visual and manual flying characteristics are surprisingly realistic.
It's better to fly when there are clear skies," admitted Fernando Silva, who at age 10 was all but dwarfed by the surround-view simulated cockpit.
Overseeing initial visits was museum CEO Jeffrey Bass, who, with other Hiller docents, helped keep simulated flights in control, especially among younger boys, who tended to enjoy crashing into the Bay.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula began a collaboration with Hiller Aviation Museum in a spring series of seven field trips. Visits to the Hiller were part of club strategy to expand its "hands-on" approach to extended learning.
"Our students remain with us after their regular school hours, continuing the learning process until six in the evening," said Boys & Girls Clubs Executive Director Peter Fortenbaugh. "That's a long day, so we need to keep them creatively engaged."
The match is ideal between the museum's high-octane education agenda and the youth development organization's aviation classes. The classes have been held at its Menlo Park, Redwood City and East Palo Alto clubhouses and at its Belle Haven, Hoover, Garfield, Taft, and Brentwood school sites.
Club mentors used "Engineering is Elementary (EiE)" curricula from the National Academy of Engineering.
As a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, I participated with the late aviation pioneer Stanley Hiller in the 1998 founding of the museum. Education was envisioned by Stan Hiller as a core value of the museum. I'm sure he'd be thrilled at how it's been attracting so many young people, now, including students of the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The field trips were managed with the Boys & Girls Clubs by Hiller Education Vice President Jon Welte, who combined tours of historic aircraft with briefings on flight principles using drawings and models made by each student, as well as the popular one-on-one flight adventures in the museum's battery of flight simulators.
John Straubel of Menlo Park has been a volunteer and member of the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula for more than 20 years.