ESSEX, Vermont (WCAX) — Local tech startup Beta Technologies installed its mobile airplane simulator at Essex High School this week in a bid to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.
“It’s like the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m on a plane,” said a student
The simulator took students straight into the sky, with instructors teaching a few tricks of the trade while hovering a mile high. The liftoff and rollover inside the trailer is so real that some students forget they haven’t left the ground.
“It’s kind of like a video game,” Adowyn Byrne said. The senior and STEM Academy student is among dozens of curious learners who have taken virtual controls of Alia, Beta’s electric plane. Display screens show the parts that power the hybrid helicopter. “Batteries and all – we talked about stuff like that in physics class, so it’s cool to see things that I’ve only seen on worksheets in person.”
With help from Beta employees, aspiring aerospace and biomedical engineers, environmental scientists, and contractors navigate the scale functional model through a VR headset.
It’s easy to see why the students squeal with excitement when they sit down on the seat. It’s a truly immersive experience surrounding the pilot with a 190 degree view of Burlington International Airport. And from the speakers comes the soft hum of the electric plane.
“Their eyes light up when they say, ‘Is this real?’ And you’re like, ‘Hey, it’s three miles away. We’d love to come see you,” said Beta founder Kyle Clark. He says he’s sat at the same desks in the same classrooms as the students he meets. “My physics class was right up there. And of course, I looked out that window at all the planes that passed.
Now, as his business continues its vertical ascent, he’s coming full circle. The goal is not to show a student what we have done, but more so to show anyone – students, teachers or whatever – that we are not very far from high school d ‘Essex to found an aviation company,’ Clark said. . “These tools you learn in school can be applied logically and pragmatically to develop something really good.”
Clark’s mission with this visit to his alma mater closes the gap between academics and reality. Essex STEM Academy Leader Lea Ann Smith says Clark is living proof that STEM students are navigating the path to our collective future. “I really want to encourage them to think creatively and think of creative solutions for future problems in the world. And an opportunity like this, to see such a wonderful solution to tricky problems, is just great to watch. “, she said.
And some students like senior Tekla Holm-Brown may point their noses in Beta’s direction. “It’s really nice to know that a company like this, that I could possibly work for in the future, could be where I live now, so I can continue to live in Vermont,” said Holm Brown.
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