High flying fun captivated the imagination of two dozen elementary aged students at this year’s STEM Fly In. On Thursday, July 21, the St. Mary Catholic Schools STEM program hosted their fifth annual Fly In: a day filled with aviation experiences including gliders, drones and model rockets. Hosted by the SMCS STEM Club, and led by SMCMS Principal Jill Ahles and STEM Advisor Phil Kerwin, Fly In showcases some of the building blocks of STEM education.


“I love (Fly In) because it’s great curriculum for the students,” Mrs. Ahles said. “They’re learning and they don’t even know they’re learning because they’re having so much fun. We just plant a seed of curiosity for the students and watch that grow through many years.”


The day started with a brief lesson about wings and how flight works, then students were divided into smaller groups and sent to stations. Each station was led by a current high school STEM participant who shared their knowledge with the younger generation. “It’s a pleasure to work with the kids,” Mr. Kerwin said. “They’re always so enthusiastic when they come to any of our STEM co-curricular events, whether that’s Fly In, STEM Saturday, robotics, any of our stuff. It’s just so great to work with them and see the enthusiasm they bring to the program.”


During Fly In, each student built a glider and several paper airplanes. They flew drones and helped launch rockets. “We also have an RC car station, understanding that wings in airplanes are built for taking off the ground and wings in RC cars are designed in a way to keep us on the ground,” Ahles said. “Learning those principles of wings and how they’re designed.”

The event ended with a giant paper airplane, which may not have had a long flight, but the wonder it created for the students will last a lifetime. “It’s one of my favorite days,” Ahles said. “It’s just so much fun to see students’ curiosity and love for learning.


As STEM continues to grow, Kerwin has high hopes for the future of the program at SMCS. “I think (STEM) is a really important co-curricular to combine with fine arts and athletics to give kids a chance to explore further areas of their passions,” he said. “I would really like to see us expand in a number of different areas so that there’s a STEM co-curricular for everyone. STEM is becoming an increasing part of everyday life in all areas and I want to provide the students with the opportunity to pursue those passions co-curricularly.”


To learn more about STEM opportunities at St. Mary Catholic Schools, click here.

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