Alejandro Jeronimo may be years away from his pilot’s license, but on Friday the 10-year-old had his hands on the throttle and his eyes on a digitally simulated sky.
“Mom, look, I’m doing a spin!” said Alejandro, seated in the cockpit of Mueller Elementary School’s new flight simulator.
“That’s good, that’s good!” answered his mother, Candida Jeronimo. “You’re doing better than me.”
The simulator, the newest piece of technology-lab equipment at the aerospace and engineering magnet, was funded by a $2.1 million federal grant that the U.S. Department of Education awarded to the school two years ago.
The grant is aimed at allowing Mueller, near 13th and Grove, to provide more enhanced science and engineering lessons and attract a wider group of students. In addition to the simulator, the grant will fund a new weather lab, broadcast studio, teacher training programs, kid-sized lab coats and safety glasses.
On Friday the school invited parents to visit during lunch to try out the flight simulator. As part of the school’s “Dream 2013” program, parents also wrote a wish or dream for their children on paper jets and posted them throughout the school.
“My dream for Will,” read one in the main hallway, “That he loves learning and excels inside and outside of school.”
Another: “I would love for Olivia to develop a strong self-image and be a positive role model.”
Stacey Painchaud, the school’s Project Dream grant coordinator, said the new simulator offers one more way to get kids excited about science and aviation.
“Our kids are going to learn about the principles of flight, the parts of a plane, and then be able to see how that feels with actual controls,” Painchaud said.
In addition to the simulator, the school soon will install a flight simulation program on each computer in its technology lab. Officials also plan to set up a computer simulator in the school’s booth at the Choices Fair on Tuesday.
Chad Schuetz, an instructional technology specialist, said many students take to the simulator naturally, approaching it like an elaborate video game. The machine is programmed to simulate jets, military fighter aircraft, helicopters and more, taking off and landing in a variety of settings and scenarios.
On Friday, Kristopher Raymond, whose son Jaden attends Mueller, tried the “Top Gun” simulation. He banked and then rolled the fighter aircraft. A simulated mirror on the right-hand screen showed a fighter pilot wearing a headset and flight suit, though Raymond was in regular street clothes.
“He’s Tom Cruise right now,” joked Raymond’s wife, Lauren.
She said their son, a fourth-grader, came home raving about the flight simulator shortly after it was installed.
“He keeps talking about it and said, ‘You’ve got to come to the lunch,’ ” Lauren Raymond said. “I think this kind of thing really gets them excited about learning.”