Guest Blog: How I Learned about Flight

Last week, Lofty Ambitions launched a special Guest Blog feature with a piece by film producer Christopher Cowen, who will be screening and discussing his film An Article of Hope this Tuesday at 7pm at Chapman University as part of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education lecture series. Special guest: an astronaut!

Today, we continue our Guest Blog spot, which will appear every first and third Monday of the month. Our regular posts will continue every Wednesday, and we’ll add timely posts on occasion. For instance, this week is Nobel Week, so we might have to say something about the roll-out of those prizes.

Jack Dechow is an honor roll student and was  a finalist in last year’s Illinois Young Authors contest. This past summer, Jack attended Knox College for Kids. We are both alums of Knox College, with fond memories of Old Main and SMAC. Jack also happens to be our nephew, but mostly he’s a kid who is interested in writing, science, and history.


Jack Dechow entering Historic Old Main

At the beginning of the summer when I received my sign-up sheet for Knox College for Kids, I was excited because I had a great time the previous year, and I hoped this year would be just as good, if not better. One of my classes was about the horror genre, where we talked about Edgar Allen Poe and other important authors. Another class was on science fiction; we explored a huge timeline of the history of science fiction. But this  blog is about aviation and science, so I’ll talk about the Physics of Flight class. Physics of Flight is an introductory class on the basic physical properties of flying, and is taught by Professor Mark Shroyer. My first impression of the class when I walked in was, “Wow. Lots of little kids.”

I was the only kid in the class in my grade (there was one kid a grade behind me), and the rest of the children were all grade-schoolers. That really surprised me, as I expected more older children (10-13) interested in physics and interested in flying, not grade-schoolers. I figured, even if there were many little kids in the class, it would still be fun. I was right. And of course, I had been one of those little kids when I started College for Kids.

First, we started talking about the forces involved with flight (and motion in general), and we started with the two simplest ones : drag and gravity. Drag is the resistance caused by air, and gravity is the downward force caused by the mass of an object in the proximity of the spinning Earth. We talked very in depth on each force, and eventually built two objects, one to fall completely to the ground in the shortest amount of time, and one to do the opposite—to fly. A lot of kids seemed to struggle to understand the concept of drag for a while, but I got first place in the fastest drop category!

Jack Dechow in the Common Room

Over the course of the two weeks, we built on the basic forces of gravity and drag, then started talking about lift and thrust. Lift is the upward force caused by Bernoulli’s principle, which is when air flows faster over the top of a surface causing lower air pressure than on the bottom of that surface. Thrust is the forward motion provided by a motive device, such as a jet engine. We also touched on Newton’s third law, which surprisingly one of the 4th graders already knew about. And we talked about how cold air drafts and hot air drafts can be used to gain lift. For instance, cold air tends to be more dense, and dense air increases lift.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Overall, I very much enjoyed Knox College for Kids. This was my 4th year participating in this program, and next year will be my last, because it’s open only to grades 1-9.  The fact that it will be my last is very disappointing because Professor Shroyer was the best teacher I have ever had in any class. I had taken classes with him for the past three years—and three years of astronomy with the same teacher still didn’t get boring!


One thought on “Guest Blog: How I Learned about Flight

  1. Great post! I’d like to go to College for Kids event though I’m grown up. I never learned this stuff when I was young.

    As an aside – I’m reading Poe this month for my book club. He’s fantastic.

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