Stem Mobile Aviation Lab

Fifth grade teacher Tiffany Randall knows how hard it is to get her entire classroom of children excited about learning. To encourage enthusiasm for science, Randall has teamed up with the Stem Mobile Aviation Lab that utilizes drones VR goggles and flight simulators to teach students about physics aerospace and programming. We go inside the lab to learn more.



Fifth-grade teacher Tiffany Randall knows how hard it is to get her entire classroom of children excited about learning.

To encourage enthusiasm for science, Randall has teamed up with the STEM Mobile Aviation Lab that utilizes drones, VR goggles, and flight simulators to teach students about physics, aerospace and programming.

We go inside the lab to learn more.


I came up with the concept of having this Aviation Mobile Lab so that all kids in Pasco County could get an opportunity to engage, explore and get them exposed to these concepts of aviation and aerospace.

In our county, we had currently nine elementary schools that are in the feeder pattern that have the aviation equipment, but I saw such an impact on the student achievement with that that we thought maybe it would be great if we could get it to all of the students in Pasco County.

Four stations were created where small groups of six students would receive hands-on experiential learning.

It starts with flight simulation.

We have fabricated the bus to have six flight simulators on it running Lockheed Martin's prepared 3D software.

The students get an opportunity to fly real live flight simulators where they get a chance to operate the yoke, and they really get a feel for flight and what flight is all about.

The students also program drones to navigate a Martian landscape.

We also have unmanned systems, so we have them operating drones, but with the drones, we're tying in coding, so I really believe that coding is important and that it's a skill that students need to survive, and our country needs students that are very involved with computer science.

Virtual reality is used to teach students about flight.

The students are going into a virtual world and learning about lift and drag and thrust and really the physics of flight and learning how these monstrosity of air vehicles get into the air, so they're learning the physics of flight through virtual reality.

And then the fourth activity we have is tied to 3D printing, so we take a little plane that we've 3D printed in-house.

They're constructing the plane, and then they are testing different wing shapes to see how that plane goes through the air, measuring distance, and then they're doing averaging of which wing.

Was it the elliptical?

Was it the swept wing that flew the furthest after they do trials with that?

Want to go through here, primitives?

The lessons were taught by the fifth-graders' own teachers.

Ms. Randall was our first classroom that came in when we came to Pine View Elementary School here, and she was really excited.

She got the kids excited, and they were all engaged, and Ms. Randall was really good about encouraging them and just listening and giving a lot of feedback and some really great critical thinking strategies with the questioning that she gave to them.

The way that they were talking and connecting, learning, lots of aha moments.

But this is almost like something you would see, like a parachute, right?

Or one of those, like, gliders?

You have all types of kiddos in every class and all types of personalities and all different ways of learning, and they all, like, latched on.

Some of them, their favorite was the flight simulator.

Some of them was the jumping sumos.

Some of them absolutely liked putting those planes together, and they were fixated on that 3D printer.

Many really, truly enjoyed the virtual reality goggles, and some of them have had experience with virtual reality goggles, so to actually have something that they see as fun, but placed in a learning mode, was awesome.

Computer-aided design, or CAD, software helped the students design planes that would actually fly.

All of our iPads were preloaded with an app, so they were able to design a plane, so they went to Glider here, and then you double tap there, and then they were able to pick out a stabilizer and the type of wings that they would have put on there.

The students connected with this hands-on approach to aviation.

They all just 100 percent engaged, and they knew that there was a goal, and I think that made all the difference.

Students like Corina, who is absolutely determined to find a solution and so proud of herself, comments that she made along the way were, 'Oh, I got it.

Oh, I'm so smart.

I know what I did wrong now,' and the modifying and fixing that.

You got to connect the drones to your iPad and kind of, like, code your drone to go through a obstacle course.

The first thing you have to do is, like, be able to go around a volcano and, like, jump through this hoop.

You kind of have to, like, make sure the angles are right because if you get the angle wrong, you can, like, have it be turning in, like, a different direction than you want it to turn.

I think my favorite station was the 3D printer planes because you printed your plane and you tested different wingspans and aerodynamics.

There's a rubber band and a binder, and you would pull the plane back and slingshot it and see how far it went based on a tape measurer.

These aviators of the future came away wanting to share what they'd learned with others.

I'd tell them, 'You've got to do it soon.'

It's probably my most fun day at school.

It's very fun, like, learning about all the different kind of academics and stuff while doing hands-on activities.

The students of Ms. Randall's class have earned their wings.

They've proven their abilities in the STEM Aviation Lab.

And I'm going to present each of you with your wings, so thank you.


I know that this week, I had four kids take out books on how to fly and planes and pilots after this, so it just lit a fire in some of them.

I think it's a great seed to plant at this age.

Just the ability for them to really stick with something and feel confident in fixing those things and modifying things until they get it exactly right, and then seeing the pride that they have when they accomplish that goal is just huge.

You know, you're exposing them and opening up their minds and letting them know the possibilities that are out there, and we've kind of lit a fire under these kids, and that's what it's about.

We're just getting them thinking about what their future could hold.