St. John’s celebrates centennial of flight
The helicopter got called to a fire, it was too windy for the ultra-light, and ’tis not the season for hot-air ballooning. Nonetheless, the students of St. John’s Lutheran School eagerly celebrated the 100th anniversary of flight with Aviation Day on Friday.
Groups split up by “chapel families” – students of different ages who sit next to one another during religious instruction – participated in a variety of experiments used to examine the four forces that affect flight: gravity, lift, thrust and drag.
Students tossed a garbage bag weighted with clothespins into the air to test drag. As with all the experiments, students refined the test subject to try to get the best results. They found that the plastic grocery bag created the most drag when wadded once and tossed in the air with a clothespin attached to each handle.
The students were able to test thrust by using balloons and their own breath. By blowing into a small straw inside a larger capped straw with wings, the students were able to propel their planes forward.
A balloon on a straw threaded with a string spanning a classroom propelled the straw across the room. A paper plate attached to the front of the straw brought additional drag into the experiment which first grader Daniel Allen said was his favorite.
The “tube plane” had no thrust. In fact, it had no wings. The straw with two paper loops utilized lift but should have been outperformed by its thrusting counterparts. As it turns out, weather that is too windy for ultralights is great for tube planes. Students who were lucky enough to catch a gust had the longest flying experiments.
The students also took turns listening to presenter Jerry Copas. Copas, a hot-air balloon pilot, didn’t bring his balloon but captured the attention of students with his basket and knowledge of the craft.
As Copas could attest, Aviation Day was actually the celebration of the first heavier-than-air machine flight. Two brothers took to the skies over France in a hot air balloon 120 years before the Wright brothers made their first flight on Dec. 17, 1903.
Carrying on the ballooning tradition at his business, Images Aloft, in Sellersburg, Copas volunteers his time speaking to school children during the slow spring season.
“I love talking to kids. They ask the craziest questions sometimes,” Copas said.
Copas’ quiet and attentive audience loved listening to him, too.