Pilot Barrington Irving used an event at Ronald Reagan National Airport Sept. 23 to launch his Flying Classroom project, created to offer interactive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to schoolchildren around the world.
Irving and his team will fly the Inspiration III, a Hawker 400XP business jet, to North America, Asia, Indonesia, and Australia to demonstrate real-life STEM applications, along with history, geography, and humanities. Over three school years, he will go on 16 ground, air, and sea expeditions.
This journey isn't like the one taken in 2007, said Irving. "That trip was done with a turboprop. With this project, I'll be using a business jet and transforming it into a flying classroom," he said.
The problem with the aviation industry now is that it can no longer depend on reaching students outside the classroom, said Irving. "So now we have to get directly into the classroom so we can inspire kids to become pilots and engineers," he said. "And we need to use aviation as the vehicle to show how important it is to learn math and science. We're using aviation to take education to the next level."
In a speech to 450 Washington, D.C.-area school children, Irving stressed the importance of getting an education.
Among Irving's expeditions are a trip to U.K.-based game maker Maverick. "We are going there to show how geometry and algebra are important to game design," he said. "We're also traveling to Nike to show, really soon, you will be able to use a 3-D printer to print out shoes without having to go to a store." It all takes an education, he added. "We hope that this will help move kids into STEM careers.
"No matter what anyone tells you—you're too poor, not popular in school, not fast in the classroom—anything is possible. I didn't have much, but I had a brain and got a good education. We all have brains that make things possible."