Indoor skydiving being used to teach kids about science


AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s only a few weeks into the school year, but students at Palm Elementary in Austin are already taking a field trip. This one will likely set the bar high: indoor skydiving at iFly in northwest Austin.

This trip is a treat for first through fifth grade students who completed a reading challenge over the summer, but it’s not all fun and games. Field trips to iFLY include science instructions, demonstrations, classroom experiments and a chance to go flying in the wind tunnel.

Nikki Prather, STEM Educator with iFLY, says, “The purpose of this STEM class before they go fly is to pull concepts and things that they’ve learned in a classroom or maybe read in a textbook and kind of bring it to life. A lot of times with physics and different types of science, it doesn’t always stick or make sense until you experience it.”

iFLY has STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camps in the summer and hosts field trips during the school year aimed at all ages. The lessons kids get at the center are developed by local educators to align with what kids are learning in the classroom. The curriculum fits with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Math.

At the center, students get a chance to test out ideas about what makes flight happen in their science lesson. Ian Huggins answers how he thinks the wind tunnel works: “I was thinking like wind turbines…they generate electricity.”

The students get to see instructors, sports balls and even water droplets go flying in the tunnel before they take flight themselves. Nicolas Robredo, a fifth grader, is picking up the changes in the objects’ flight patterns quickly. “The ball is a solid and the water is a liquid,” says Robredo.

Jessica Gómez, who teaches at Palm Elementary, thinks this is quite a modern twist on learning the mechanics of flight. “I don’t even remember learning about flight when I was young,” she says. She’s hoping kids will remember this special experience.

There is a lot of science that goes into making this a safe and fun place.

“There’s two towers on the side of the building pressing the air out, down, around and up through the center where the air is compressed to create the speed we need to fly,” says Waz Choudhry, flight instructor.

And kids are learning about safety, too. Glancing up the wind tunnel, Huggins says, “I have glasses and they’re important! I don’t want them to go straight up there!” as he points to the top of the tunnel. “You don’t want to go too high and if you don’t want to fall on the little trampoline thing, keep your arms out and your legs straight.”

Friday’s field trip is just one of more than 1,000 planned this year at iFLY centers across the U.S.

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