WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Young minds experience a summer camp program unlike any other. From across the United States, 150 kids participated in interesting and hands on activities here on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as part of the Air Camp program.
For a week, children in groups of about 50 were able to visit locations on base where they were given tours, explore interactive labs, and hands on activities to facilitate learning and interest for the Air Force career field. Many of the students expressed that interest in the camp came from a love of science, planes, and the Air Force, however the program has an activity for everyone.
Every day of the camp the students are picked up by the bus from their lodging at the University of Dayton dorms and taken to their daily activities.
On day one in Area A, they received an in depth tour of a C-17 and experienced training in a flight simulator.
In Area B, the students take a visit to the 711th Human Performance Wing where pilots trained for navigating aircraft conditions.
The structure of the camp consist of various activity stations that all of the children rotate through.
Staff Sgt. Luciano Cattaneo worked as an organizer for the second year in a row for the Air Camp activities at the Human Performance Wing. Cattaneo spoke about how smart the kids are and he wanted to show them special skills for pilots as well as what it takes to be in the Air Force.
“Kids are the future, and this camp gives them an introduction into aviation,” said Cattaneo.
The second organizer was Staff Sgt William Ensrud, a formal training instructor who worked with Cattaneo in scheduling the air camp noted the experience of working with the kids.
“It has been eye opening, the kids are so smart with their insight into physiology,” said Ensrud.
The various stations of the facility appeal to the children most interested in becoming a pilot or working with planes. The kids were able to receive lessons through simulations and demonstrations teaching the importance of training and attention to detail when flying.
One such lesson that the students enjoyed was the Barnui chair, a special device that demonstrates disorientation and lack spatial awareness to the subject sitting in it. The effects that the students are observing is how the constant movement of the chair causes off set balance regulated by head fluid in your ear. In doing this exercise the kids can see how constant movement in an air plane can effect a pilot in the air.
The students watched as their peers spun in the chair causing them to be unaware of their spatial orientation with dramatic reactions of falling forward and jerking their bodies to the side which even the subjects found amusing. In demonstration, the children gained knowledge of why it’s important for pilots to trust their instruments and maintain awareness of their surroundings, all while having fun with their fellow campers.
Nearby the next group of students entered a chamber where in individual seats they wore oxygen masks and flight helmets, breathing ambient air to learn about controlled breathing during flight as well as how to use the oxygen flow indicator.
The children were excited to participate in the activities but also took the opportunity to ask detailed questions and show off their knowledge of aviation to the staff.
Two students share their experience about what they had seen so far and were impressed by what they are able to do at Air Camp.
Thirteen year old Savannah Smith and twelve year old Dakota Wagner are students who took part in the second week of Air Camp. They received the opportunity through an application process online after hearing about it from other kids at their school who went to the camp. Savannah sees this as an opportunity to explore what she likes in a career while Dakota wants to be a pilot for the military.
“You get a lot of different experiences that you wouldn’t get at a normal camp. You get to go places people normally don’t get to go to at this age,” said Smith.
Wagner agrees and adds that her favorite part was flying in a simulator. She looks forward to flying a plane later in the week when the students are taken to Wright Field where they have a chance to fly with a pilot and learn more about having aviation careers.
“It has been such a cool experience learning new information that I would never hear anywhere else and we get to do some pretty awesome stuff,” said Wagner.
One of the activities the children experienced while on base was visiting the fire station where they learned about emergency response resources and rescue operations. The stations include a lesson in basic emergency response, thermal imaging technology, a turn spraying the fire hose, and much more.
The application process to be accepted into Air Camp consists of a referral from a teacher, filling out registration, and a short essay. The students say it’s well worth it for all the benefits you get from the camp.
For more information on the Air Camp program visit Aircamp.org.