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ISU 4U Promise students to attend DAVinCI Flight Camp

A group of ISU 4U Promise students will get to design and build model gliders as part of a week-long DAVinCI Flight camp at the Grubb YMCA in Des Moines.

DAVinCI, which stands for Design environment for Aerospace Vehicles for in Classroom Interaction, utilizes computer simulation and gaming technology to engage students in STEM learning. Katherine Richardson Bruna, ISU 4U Promise director, also sees the camp as a way to foster the relationship with Moulton and King elementary students as they move through middle and high school.

“We know that the experience a child has with schooling in his or her adolescent years is critical to the formation of a positive socio-academic identity. While the ISU 4U Promise is committed to a partnership with King and Moulton elementary schools, it would be short-sighted to think that the benefits would endure throughout middle and high school without follow-up,” Richardson Bruna said.

Students will work in teams during the camp to design and test their gliders using the DAVinCI Flight simulator. They will then use a 3-D printer to create the pieces and build their glider to test in the field. VSI Aerospace developed the game and collaborated with Richardson Bruna and other ISU faculty on the curriculum.

Chris Whitmer, project lead for DAVinCI Flight, says similar to any video game students can advance to different levels. The program provides a model template as a starting point and adjusts to each child’s ability. The more advanced their mathematical skills, the more involved they are in the glider design.        

Most students are familiar with gaming technology, so it is not only fun, but less intimidating to use. At the same time, the program builds confidence and skills that students can continue to develop in school, Richardson Bruna said.

“It’s an ‘inside out’ approach to STEM teaching and learning that puts naturalistic inquiry first and then introduces the constructs and language that we associate with the STEM disciplines. The center of knowledge construction begins within the youth instead of outside them,” Richardson Bruna said. “For youth historically excluded from STEM, this is important because it recognizes them as learners and knowers, and positions them as possible members of future STEM professional communities.”

The DAVinCI Flight Camp, which runs Aug. 3-7, is free for the 20 middle school students registered to attend. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa 4-H Youth Development, the YMCA, DAVinCI Flight and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium are helping sponsor the camp.

ISU 4U Promise is a partnership between Iowa State University, Des Moines Public Schools and community-based organizations to make college more affordable for students at King and Moulton elementary schools. Students can earn a tuition award based on years of enrollment at King or Moulton. They must also meet academic requirements for ISU admission as well as attendance and disciplinary standards set by Des Moines Schools.