Thys DeHoop, 17, can see his future in the skies over his home town every time he looks up and sees an F-15 fighter jet soar high above.
“Growing up in Klamath, being able to see the F-15s, how fast they go, how loud they are,” DeHoop said. “The atmosphere at the base, it’s so fun and family oriented. I want to be a part of that someday. And I think it’d be cool to go Mach 2.5, faster than the speed of sound.”
He and about 60 other Henley High School students recently got a closer look at the jets and Kingsley Field at the home of the 173rd Fighter Wing on a field trip to the Air National Guard base. The field trip was part of the Henley High School Aerospace Engineering program.
The tour included a briefing with the engine shop, briefing with avionics and a briefing with life support. Students were given the opportunity to use night vision goggles worn by the pilots and to go out near the flight line and watch the F-15s take off.
“Oh man, it was loud,” DeHoop said. “That was closer than I’ve ever gotten. You always see them in the air, but to see them take off, it was pretty amazing.”
“The feeling of it in your chest is awesome when you get out there,” agreed Spencer Saunders, 18, another Henley student. “Definitely one of the best things.”
Both young men want to fly as F-15 pilots or as private pilots. They believe Aerospace Engineering at Henley will give them a leg up.
“If I know more about the planes, then I think it’ll be easier to fly,” DeHoop said.
Henley’s Aerospace Engineering program is full swing into its second year. Students like DeHoop and Saunders are in the more advanced class, Aerospace Engineering, after completing Introduction to Engineering last year. Two new classes of students are taking intro to engineering this year.
“It’s geared toward actual flight, rather than engineering as a whole,” Saunders said of the second-year course. “It’s really interesting. I love the flight simulator.”
And at Henley Middle school, students are taking Design and Modeling and Automation and Robotics as an elective, precursors to engineering.
In all, Henley Middle School and Henley High School have 113 students in engineering courses:
Henley High School:
- Aerospace Engineering: 18 students (second year)
- Introduction to Engineering: 61 students (first year)
Henley Middle School:
- Design and Modeling: 34 students (seventh and eighth grade)
- Automation and Robotics (second semester)
Next year Henley Aerospace Engineering will add more courses, said Dr. Kristi Lebkowsky, who heads the program. The new courses will include Principles of Engineering and the following school year a Capstone class where students will apply their skills to a year-long practical
“Engineers are supposed to be changing the world and making a difference,” Lebkowsky said. “That’s what the Capstone is about: Taking all the skills you developed over the last three years and putting them into something real.”
Those courses all have the potential for college credit with Oregon Tech, either as dual credit or assessment credit.
Henley Aerospace Engineering uses Project Lead the Way curriculum, which focuses on problem solving in a real-word context. It is used in 8,000 schools nationwide and partners with Oregon Tech, among other colleges and universities. Henley’s program has a strong partnership with Kingsley Field and the 173rd Fighter Wing.
Henley also has an engineering club with 35 students at the middle school and 30 at high school. The Henley Engineering Club will host its second annual KidWind Engineering Competition on March 10, inviting schools from around the region to design wind turbines.
The students in these classes and clubs have their sights set high, and are doing the work to make it happen. Students put in hours of time outside of class, and during class stay engaged and active, computing calculations that take an entire white board to solve.
Savannah Griffith, 16, and Alyssa Michaels, 16, worked together to design and build a glider and catapult launching mechanism in the Aerospace Engineering class. They completed the math on paper, designed on the computer, and then built the glider and the catapult. Last came troubleshooting to find what worked best for both parts together.
In careers, engineers design products and send them on to be manufactured. In Lebkowsky’s classes, students design and build, learning both sides.
“They get to do all of it. So they really see, as an engineer and designer, what do I need to consider?” Lebkowsky said. “As they start building, they realize, ‘maybe I should have also done this or that,’ and it gives them a full understanding of the process.”
Emma Wilkinson, 14, is one of the students who participated in engineering club at Henley Middle School last year and is taking her first high school engineering course this year. She also participated in the KidWind competition, going all the way to the national championship in Anaheim, Calif., last spring. Wilkinson has big plans, aiming to double major in veterinary science and engineering and minor in chemistry and Spanish when she goes to college. She says those hit all her interests.
Taking engineering courses now means she feels more prepared for those big plans. And she’s proud to be a female student in a largely male field.
“I like it because it’s a challenge for me,” she said. “I like having to use my brain more and show the guys we can do just as well as they can.”
Story and photography by Samantha Tipler, Public Relations, Klamath County School Disctrict