Five Ulster BOCES students in the Aviation/Drone program demonstrated their mettle when they took first place recently in a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contest. The Straw Hat Pilots team – made up of Connor Bruschi, Wallkill Central School District; Sean Sasso, Saugerties Central School District; Daiven Leath, Highland Central School District; Joe Carpino, Kingston City School District; and Dalton Veeder, New Paltz Central School District – competed against more than 3,000 students from 50 states and 18 different countries in the FAA STEM Aviation and Space Education Airport Design Challenge.
In November, the young professionals were tasked with researching a local airport and constructing a model of it using the Minecraft video game. They chose to recreate the Kingston/Ulster Airport and had seven weeks to complete the challenge. “We knew we could complete it in time and make it very accurate,” says Carpino. “I’ve been there a lot and it’s not a massive airport, so we could include details like the forest, bridge and tollbooths.”
The assignment required the group to analyze a variety of factors, including airport layout, pavement, lighting, structures and innovative growth. They also had to employ their project-management skills to accommodate all of their busy schedules so they could meet virtually after school for approximately 12 hours a week.
Carpino and Veeder note that having good communication skills was key in making the project a success. With the five students already managing the demands of the rigorous Aviation/Drone program, as well as their home and school workloads, sports and more, it took a lot of coordination. Carpino explains, “We had to work around each other’s schedules, and that was half of the struggle.”
The group immersed themselves in the design process of the video, adding details like storage barns, hangars, various kinds of lights at the landing zone and a rendering of the airport’s heliport. To address the contest’s “innovative growth” requirement, the young designers created a control tower and an unmanned aircraft base. Veeder and Carpino agree that the additions were important factors in their win. “When they were showing the videos of other teams’ airports, we didn’t see any innovation,” Carpino recalls. “In ours, we explained why it was important to have these elements,” adds Veeder.
Carpino says that he plans on becoming an aerospace engineer and credits the collaborative and thought-provoking process with making him think more critically about airport design. Veeder is in agreement about the importance of collaboration. “I want to become a helicopter pilot for search-and-rescue missions, so working together with a team and getting the job done is a valuable trait that will help me in this profession,” says the New Paltz High School senior.
Principal Amy Storenski says that this project exemplifies the advantages of the kind of education offered at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center. “Experiences like this are an example of career and technical education helping our young professionals set and achieve their career goals,” she says. “It challenged the students to use so many of the essential skills that we reinforce here at Ulster BOCES, such as teamwork, creativity, communication, innovation and time management.”
To see the student’s winning video, visit https://youtu.be/00hSRU-w_3E.