HURST — As wind speeds pick up in the iFLY skydiving tunnel, it’s hard to tell why Nisha is smiling. It could be the feeling of weightlessness as she hangs in the air. Or it could be that the L.D. Bell student is catching gusts strong enough to rearrange her expression as she takes flight. But there’s a good chance that she’s simply enjoying her hands-on science experiment.

Nisha, along with several dozen other students from Bell and Trinity High School, was selected to go skydiving as a reward for her performance in school. Dalworth Restoration funded the trip, but they needed a little help deciding which students should be invited. That's where 6 Stones and the Hurst Euless Bedford Independent School District stepped in. HEB administrators made of list of qualified students, each of whom were connected to Dalworth by 6 Stones. According to Josh Hobbs, Dalworth's Chief Information Officer, everything fell into place perfectly.

Thanks to Dalworth and iFLY, HEB students got a feel for flight. (Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

“It was something that we just kicked around. The idea of doing something fun at the end of the year, around Christmas. What could we do that’s fun and who could we allow to participate with us?” he said. “We read about this place — it’s fairly new — and we came out here and saw it. We thought this was cool. This is something that not a lot of people have done, but would love to do. We knew this would be the thing to do.”

A Rewarding Experience

Ultimately, the company decided that students with outstanding grades or attendance should be rewarded for their hard work. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to teach as well as encourage the teens, the team at Dalworth signed up for iFLY’s STEM Field Trip program.

STEM — which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — is a growing field in the economy and in public schools. Recently, administrators in HEB have been working to incorporate and expand STEM programming in the district. This year, campuses across the district have updated courses to boost student interest in those subjects. Central Junior High is piloting a STEM school of choice program. The district's new emphasis made iFLY a perfect field trip.

A mixture of LD Bell and Trinity students prepare for their first skydiving lesson. (Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

“We really want to show the application of STEM to something that’s fun, that’s relatable to kids and out of the theater of academia. Out of the classroom. It’s much more fun to be here and learn about terminal velocity and equations for how to approximate that for each individual,” said iFLY instructor Andy Alexaitis. “They’re a lot more fully understood about how this works than just our run-of-the-mill customer.”

The iFLY curriculum, designed with the help of teachers and professionals from all over the United States, gives students a firsthand look at concepts they learn in the classroom. Components vary by age, but the program always involves wind tunnel demonstrations and flight time. The group selected by Dalworth got to experiment with drag and terminal velocity for various objects before jumping into the tunnel themselves. Most of those students said that the hands-on experience was a great supplement to what they learned in class.

The Greatest Feeling Imaginable

Alexaitis trained each of the students in the lab and in the wind tunnel. A graduate of L.D. Bell who transferred to iFLY's Hurst location after it opened last October, the instructor is thrilled to be home. Teaching kids from his alma mater is “a dream come true” for Alexaitis. Even though he spends his working hours soaring through the air, he can’t imagine a better feeling than he gets from exploring physics with high school students. They seem to agree.

Andy Alexaitis helps one of his students to manage her own aerodynamics as she learns to fly. (Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

“Once you get in there, the actual weightlessness is magical,” Nisha said. “I love physics, and I was really excited to go [on this trip]… now I actually understand what it means to be at terminal velocity!”

Adam, another student from Bell, said that he couldn’t wait for the trip. “I waited for this moment a lot,” he recalled. “Every day, I told work: ‘make sure that on the 28th, I’m off. I’m going indoor skydiving.’ I’m here. I was very early for the bus!”

While he isn’t sure what the future holds yet, Adam hopes to be an aerodynamic engineer some day. This experience, which was too expensive for his family under normal circumstances, was a nice treat for him. Other students, like Jennifer from Trinity, were just as impressed by the community as they were by the science.

“I think it’s so cool that they [took us out here],” she said. “That they take the time out of their day to do this. That’s really sweet.”

Our Community

For Dalworth, this wasn’t a Public Relations stunt. The company has a long history of caring for HEB students, which traces back to their roots in the area.

Just like riding a bike, instructors slowly surrender control to their charges — but stay close by in case they are needed. (Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

“The HEB community has given a ton to Dalworth. We’ve been in the HEB community for 40 years now,” said said Bennett Wilson, the company’s Director of Business Development. “We’re a family owned business. The owner of the company, all of his kids went to school in the HEB area. Just to give back to the community is awesome. It makes the job worth doing. This is our community; it’s not just a community.”

That attitude is what makes HEB — and the businesses in it — special. We aren’t here because it’s easy. We aren’t here because it’s financially viable. This community is here because we love it here. And that means that we love each other.

That’s what makes our community soar.

While it's tough to smile in an active wind tunnel, students found a way.(Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.