Biz/Tech/NFTs iFLY STEM Program

Published on May 5th, 2023 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


iFLY STEM Program is ‘The Coolest Field Trip Out There’

Educational trips don’t have to be dull. iFLY offers an exciting STEM program. More than 400,000 students and over 15,000 organizations, such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, have participated. “We do a significant amount of STEM classes,” says CEO Matt Ryan. “It’s the coolest field trip out there.” iFLY’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program uses state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnels to inspire and educate students.

This is also cool: Scholastic field trips can advance student outcomes in school. A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that students, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, who go on school trips have better grades, higher high school and college graduation rates, and make more money than those that didn’t go on field trips. According to the study, 89% of participants believe academic trips, like the iFLY STEM program, positively influenced their education and career.

“Field trips give students the opportunity to learn in a natural environment and experience things firsthand and from primary resources, rather than texts; real objects rather than photos,” said Margy Natalie, the on-site learning manager at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Research has shown that 65% of people are visual learners, so a field trip like the STEM program is an excellent way to make learning fun and thrilling. The vertical wind tunnel is a visual illustration of physics, and when a student can touch, see, and hear the concepts in action, it helps them better understand science, technology, engineering, and math.

Science in Action 

It’s anything but textbook: Learning about math and physics is lots of fun at iFLY. “Flight is a very complicated element of physics that we’ve taken and broken down into courses that are accredited for elementary, middle school, and high school students,” says Chris Barrett, president of the retail division.

Approximately 100,000 students a year participate in the fun and fascinating program, designed by Michelle Brumley, a former aerospace physiologist in the Air Force. She taught middle school science before lending her talents to the vertical wind tunnel program. She heads up the team of over 100 iFLY STEM educators from various backgrounds, including former school teachers and engineers who have worked with NASA, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX. 

iFLY STEM Program

iFLY STEM Program

“We service everyone from kindergarten through 12th grade,” said Brumley. “It is the perfect opportunity for [participants] to learn about aerodynamics and specifically get to feel what it is like instead of just watching it. And it’s also a great confidence builder because it’s doing something they’ve never done before.”

Barrett says that iFLY “gives students the ability to come in and take an accredited training program that’s not just throwing them in the tunnel. Participants actually go through basic physics classes. Then they get the experience of their own flight, and hopefully, they get inspired to chase down something in the STEM arena.”

The company works with numerous Title 1 schools to ensure that students of all socioeconomic backgrounds get to experience the hands-on educational program and fly inside the vertical wind tunnel. “We are passionate about delivering the dream of flight to everyone, and it allows us to give back a little to our communities,” says Barrett. “Highly trained STEM educators deliver the program, and kids get the appropriate credits. This isn’t like a trip to the museum just to get out of class.”

Such a program can benefit participants’ education and life experiences. “Field trips give diverse and financially-in-need students an equal opportunity to experience things outside the classroom that their families may not be able to afford,” says Carylann Assante, executive director for Student & Youth Travel Association and the Student & Youth Foundation. 

iFLY Chicago Takes STEM to New Heights 

Chicago public school students enjoy field trips to iFLY. The hands-on learning and vertical wind tunnel flying set the program apart from other educational offerings throughout the Windy City.

During the approximately two-hour event, students learn through the interactive presentation of real-work STEM applications and physics demonstrations inside the wind tunnel, based on grade levels.

Ellie Davis, area sales manager at iFLY, says, “When objects are put in the wind tunnel, students get to actually see the forces in action that they’ve been learning about. They see why the surface area is important and why mass is important to how an object flies. And then they get to fly. They get to have fun and become the experience themselves.”

There are also lab activities and immersive experiments, and participants learn to measure and record data and decipher results. In addition, the company supplies schools with preflight and post-trip worksheets to further their educational journey. 

Word of mouth spread among Chicago-area teachers who brought classes to the facility, translating into more business for the vertical wind tunnel facility. “A lot of teachers have a great time, and they tell another teacher,” says Davis

You don’t have to be affiliated with a school to reap the benefits of the STEM program. Different groups, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, summer camps, JROTC groups, and home schools, bring kids in to participate in the technologically advanced class and vertical wind tunnel experience. Watch this YouTube video to see the iFLY STEM program in action


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Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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