The aviation heritage foundation holds its first summer camp

Failure was an option.

For students at the first-ever Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation Summer Camp, failure was just something encountered on the path to success.

“You always learn to fail. You always have to fail,” said camper Halley Bonner, of Havelock. “You can’t create success all the time. That’s what we’ve had to learn. That’s why there is the scientific method, hypothesis and conclusion. I’ve learned a lot at this camp and it’s been awesome.”

Bonner was among the 40 rising fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders participating in the first-ever summer camp that emphasized aeronautics, science, technology, engineering and math.

The campers were divided into four teams, the Raptors, Hornets, Androids and Mind Crafters. Collectively, they designed various flying apparatuses and parachutes, and experimented with wind tunnels. They listened to experts in the field of aviation explain the finer points, using exhibits at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center as backdrop.

“We’ve had a great number of fantastic volunteers from Craven Early College, from Havelock High School, N.C. State University engineering and interns from Fleet Readiness Center East that have been over daily, so the kids have been able to interact with people who are new in their field of engineering,” said Amanda Ohlensehlen, a camp organizer for the foundation. “We also have four great lead instructors who are from Craven County and Carteret County schools.

“We are trying to get kids inspired about science, engineering and math at an early age so they can consider doing that in the future. This is a great age to capture that enthusiasm and creativity and let them explore. It’s been a ton of fun and eye opening to see everything that they come up with on their own and how they interpret the various constraints on the different projects that we are having them work on.”

The children spent 3 1/2 hours each of the five days of the camp working on projects.

“I think one of the best things that has come out of the week is sometimes they sit there and they plan and figure out what is going to work and then they test it out and it’s a failure, and then they come back and they say ‘well, why do you think that didn’t work,’” Ohlensehlen said. “The second time around they change their design around, they modify it and that’s really been what the week’s been about.”

Braxton Roberson, 10, of New Bern, was one who thought it was better to do a good job of designing on paper before the assembly process.

“It makes it easier, because I already know what to do with my materials,” Roberson said. “I’ve learned how to follow through with plans and how to design stuff. They have to design and create stuff and they can’t do that without plans.”

Ryan Jeffries, 11, of New Bern, said engineering is more creative than most think.

“Engineering is not all math like you think it is, but is mostly creativity,” he said. “It’s more hands-on than just doing math and learning about it in class instead of actually doing it.”

Stephen Healy, 9, of New Bern, said he was pleased to be able to come to Havelock instead of Raleigh for the fly camp.

“It’s great and I was expecting that we would have to go all the way to N.C. State to do it, but luckily they moved it to Havelock,” he said. “This is a really nice camp and I really like it and I think other kids should come here, too.

“You get to do lots of engineering stuff and tinker and it makes you not afraid to fail. Everybody failed in this class at least once and we all made something from that mistake and made something better out of it. So you can figure out what’s bad about the idea so you can make it better.”

Laura Bischoff, a sixth-grade teacher at Morehead City Middle School, served as an instructor at the camp.

“Coming to a camp as such, they are getting to think outside the box,” she said. “It’s getting to use their hands, their minds, being creative. They’re learning about a process, a plan, so that they can keep on trying and making improvements. They’re getting to be independent thinkers.”

It’s all about experimentation, she said.

“They start with templates, learning about the concepts and the designs for success, and then we let them make their own individual technologies, in this case,” Bischoff said. “From that, that’s where we’re seeing the individuality. That’s where we’re seeing their excitement. They are vested in what they are doing.”

Ohlensehlen said that she sensed the excitement the students had attending the camp each day.

“They’re coming every day excited to learn, excited to be a good team member, so they are working as a team to figure out how they can collaborate,” she said. “Some of the work is done individually, where they can work one-on-one or work in small teams.”

She said that the aviation foundation has plans to hold the camp annually, with some modifications from year to year.

“We will try to have a little bit different theme on it every year so they can come back and do different activities,” she said.