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STEM Programs

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Experiential Education Through Aviation

Since 2009, when the first group of teenagers started building an RV-12 at the Van’s factory in Oregon, more than 65 other groups have followed suit, building RV-12 and RV-12iS aircraft through unique programs that offer young people an opportunity to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills. We’re proud that the concept started here, and thrilled that so many programs have built upon that foundation and created some truly great experiences for young people.

Some of these programs are coordinated with or by schools, while others are independent or may be part of a non-profit organization. Regardless, each teen-build project places experienced adult mentors alongside teenage students. These mentors share the skills and information needed to successfully complete the RV-12 aircraft.

“We’re not just building airplanes here — we’re building young adults”

Perhaps just as important — and maybe even more so — these program result not only in building an airplane, but also in building young men and women. The teamwork, focus, leadership and hands-on skills are unique and students who complete these programs consistently report (as do their parents) that the skills learned in the program have shaped them as people and prepared them for their next steps in the real world. Often, the students discover what they want to do in life via their STEM program.

The RV-12: Perfect kit for groups and learning

It’s no accident that so many teen build programs choose the RV12 and RV-12iS as the airplane around which the programs are focused. The relatively simple assembly, matched-hole precision of the kit, and the detailed step-by-step, illustrated instructions are all strong drivers and are what make the kit conducive to group builds, whether with teens or adults. In addition, the RV-12 kit and its assembly instructions are structured in a way that allows the order of the build to be tailored to suit a large group building project. This is important when you want to ensure everyone is involved, and stays busy. Many groups have designed a standard build order and proven methods for accomplishing just that.

“From Zero to Airplane”

A typical RV-12 build for a teen program takes anywhere from 12 to 24 months. One such program, the original TeenFlight location in Portland, meets weekly on Saturdays for about 6 hours per session. A complete RV-12 build, including the prerequisite training sessions, covers about a year and a half of calendar time – around 75 to 80 sessions. Students in the TeenFlight Portland program typically start with no experience or skills working with tools, metal, or technical documents. First, students spend some time in classroom sessions and review of the first few sections of the RV-12 plans. Then they move on to the Van’s OP-51 practice kit, a training exercise that allows teaching and learning (and mistake making and repairing!) in a variety of hands-on skills.  Upon successful completion of that kit, the students will then build the Van’s Aircraft toolbox kit. Only after that do they move on to start working with the “real” aircraft parts.

Adult Programs

Group building is not just for kids. Learning happens our entire lives! In fact, with the rising popularity of co-ownership we are seeing more and more orders for aircraft, especially the RV-12iS, where the plan is for a group of adults to learn and build together. Often attached to an EAA chapter or some other similar organization, groups are structured similarly to the teen-building groups — some are mentors, some are brand new people with an interest in learning — and all participate.

Educational Discounts for Youth Builds

Van’s Aircraft offers a discount to established organizations that are specifically structured to teach youth, and where the aircraft will not be owned by an individual associated with the build. In other words, for programs where the aircraft is being used as a teaching tool and will later be sold to fund another airplane build, or used solely for educational program purposes, Van’s will review each application and determine eligibility. The 10% discount is offered as a rebate after completion of each aircraft, as a credit toward the next kit purchase for the program’s ongoing build process.