Apollo 11 anniversary boosts STEM Club’s ‘Fly In’ event

NEENAH — More than 30 elementary and middle school students observed the Apollo 11 moon walk’s 50th anniversary by participating in St. Mary Catholic Schools’ third annual “Fly In.” The July 19 event gave students an opportunity to learn about the historic Apollo 11 flight and then build their own model rockets.

They also had opportunities to launch those rockets, get behind the remote control of several unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and get a close-up look at an ultralight aircraft.

Volunteer Gary Elmer gives STEM Club students and adult volunteers a description of his homemade ultralight aircraft during St. Mary Catholic Schools’ “Fly In” event July 19. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The event was hosted by the SMCS STEM Club, whose goals are to encourage STEM education and promote aviation education to students. In addition to celebrating the Apollo moon walk, the Fly In was also held to coincide with EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019. Sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association, EAA is the world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts. It was held in nearby Oshkosh July 21-28.

“It’s just another tool to help get them inspired and excited about STEM,” said Greg Cheslock, STEM Club coordinator, about connecting the Apollo 11 space mission with this year’s Fly In. “It’s a good resource for the kids, even though they weren’t alive at that time.”

Cheslock, a member of St. Mary Parish in Menasha, said Apollo 11 “was such a big event for our country and the world.”-

STEM Club volunteer Ben Schoeni, left, assists Robert Nagel as he prepares to launch a model rocket during the SMCS STEM Club “Fly In” July 19 at the Neenah school. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“We think that’s a big deal because all of the technology and the things that we learned through the space program and getting to the moon have really helped mankind,” he said.

The Catholic school system’s STEM Club has been in existence since 2016 and succeeded its successful SMC Technology and Engineering Club, which mostly focused on robotics, he said.

“It’s all about STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — and we can introduce those concepts to the kids through aviation, shooting rockets and flying drones,” said Cheslock, who began volunteering at SMCS 18 years ago.

According to Cheslock, all the adults who lead the STEM Club activities are volunteers. “We all have an interest in STEM education and like to share that with kids,” he said.