MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – At St. Paul’s Johnson High School, Scott Shaffer teaches lessons in physics.

There are no textbooks or whiteboard lectures. Instead, students like junior Fabian Gutierrez will learn by taking flight.

“It’s actually pretty real, you know, all the controls and stuff,” Gutierrez said.

Fabian’s aviation class is the newest course offered as part of the school’s emphasis on aerospace and engineering.

Seven flight simulators allow students to feel like they’re traveling around the world unaware of the bigger goal.

“It’s like almost accidently teaching them physics without them knowing it, which is really cool,” Gutierrez said.

This real world approach to learning isn’t limited to aviation. Future engineers also get to work in a state of the art lab complete with 3-D printers, computer modeling machines and laser cutters.

“Now you’ve taken it to that technology, the hands-on, and I think this is a great example of that,” said Kevin Davis, assistant principal at Johnson High School.

The St. Paul school district made the investment in equipment after seeing success in similar programs at nearby elementary and middle school.

After parents voiced support, the decision was made to give students an opportunity to have an engineering emphasis through their entire education.

“That’s the advantage that our kids are able to keep doing what they did in elementary school and go to high school,” Davis said.

It’s consistency that’s helped Fabian, who’s already planning for life after graduation.

“I was thinking of joining the Navy, but it inspired me more to become a pilot,” Gutierrez said.

The hope is that students could one day get their pilot license while attending class. There are plans to keep growing the aerospace and engineering programs.

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