Under a Wing



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The inspiration for this column came to me in the parking lot behind an extraordinary high school, where I learned about an extraordinary teaching lab.

In the photo above, you can see the wing of the 747 that made finding a parking space an unusual, but enlightening, experience as my introduction to Raisbeck Aviation High School, which is right next door to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. The school occupies the building in the background, with its clean white walls on one side, and sky blue and dark sky blue glass panels on the other side.

Inside the school is the Prototyping Lab described in the column. The centerpiece of this lab is the Maxiem 1515 waterjet cutting machine from Omax, which is shown below.


This lab and this waterjet machine are especially important to Robert Steele, who is standing alongside the machine. Robert, a physics and engineering teacher at the school, is head coach of the school's Skunk Works Robotics Team.

The school's robotics team relies on this machine to produce many of the parts that the students design and assemble to create winning entries in robotics competitions. And Robert relies on the experiences students have in the lab to reinforce essential lessons about manufacturability, keeping design and engineering practical, and the physics pertaining to real-world objects.

Meanwhile, the 747 is waiting for a new home which is being constructed during the next year adjacent to the school.  This construction project will finally give the plane, and many other historical aircraft from the Museum of Flight’s collection, a roof that will protect them as well as improve the visitor's experience. No doubt having historic aircraft such as this jumbo jet nearby will continue to inspire and energize the 400 or so students enrolled at this extraordinary high school.