Visitors to Orlando Science Center will get to “virtually” climb into the cockpit and experience life as a pilot when the new immersive experience, Flight Lab, premieres on Friday, January 12, at their annual Otronicon tech expo.
FLIGHT LAB will contain 13 flight simulator stations to accommodate both a pilot and co-pilot. Students or “studs,” will use computer stations with Oculus Rift head-mounted display units as they learn how to fly, navigate, communicate, and work as a team.
The new exhibit experience will use inspirational real-world mission scenarios to teach standards-based STEM concepts and to develop critical communication, decision-making, team building, and collaborative skills. All these skills are put to the test as the Lab’s flight “Captain” assigns each pilot/co-pilot unit a mission of high value. Missions can vary and certain tasks will require all 13 teams to work together. Other missions will pit the best pilots against one another in their own version of “Top Gun.”
“One of our main objectives is to create a fun and engaging way to teach about the mathematics in aviation and engineering,” said Brandan Lanman, Vice President of Visitor Experience at Orlando Science Center. “So as the co-pilot, you have the task of solving the math problems that are associated with successfully completing your mission. You have to know the amount of fuel, your speed, your weight and take into consideration all of these factors before you tell your pilot where to go and how fast they need to go to get there. It’s using real world application to show the practical use of mathematics.”
Following Otronicon, the flight lab will be a versatile space available for students and the general public in a number of formats. On certain days, there will be open lab time for visitors to complete self-guided tutorials. Other times, guests will join a scheduled group mission led by the Captain. The lab will also be accessible for events like Science Night Live, the Science Center’s adults-only event, which happens five times a year on Saturday evenings.
In addition to offering a new experience to excite Science Center guests, the purpose of FLIGHT LAB is to support STEM education and develop the next generation of scientists, engineers, aviators, and technicians who will have workforce competencies that enable the Department of Defense to meet future mission objectives. This project will also enable students and general visitors to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) career opportunities they might not otherwise have considered.
“This is STEM learning at its finest, an engaging and immersive experience that tests your problem solving and critical thinking skills,” said OSC President and CEO JoAnn Newman. “FLIGHT LAB vividly shows how the Science Center can inspire and educate using real-world scenarios and technology that make science relevant and exciting for all ages.”
Orlando Science Center gives special thanks to the funder and partners for FLIGHT LAB. Funding is provided by the Office of Naval Research. Subject matter expertise and curriculum support is provided by the Naval Air Warfare Center/Training Systems Division. Technology and curriculum is designed in partnership with TEQGames. The flight training software was developed by Lockheed Martin and has been used to teach real pilots to fly.
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