Aug. 4, the Challenger II aircraft named ArchAngel took off from Fostoria Municipal Airport, giving flight to three years of work, struggle and dedication.
In a news release from St. Wendelin Catholic School, the Challenger II project is described as a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) initiative that began three years ago under the direction of Ron Bowerman, a teacher at St. Wendelin, and in association with the Lindbergh Foundation, an organization created in 1977.
The purpose of the Lindbergh Foundation, as stated on its website, is to "honor the Lindberghs' pioneering contributions in aviation, exploration, conservation, sciences, and the humanities," the cornerstone of which is to balance technological advancement while preserving human and natural environments.
In a newsletter published on the Lindbergh Foundation's website, Bowerman said, "The purpose of the (Challenger II) project is to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and math."
About 100 St. Wendelin students were involved in the building of the Challenger II, and Bowerman said during an interview his focus is to look at what the Wright Brothers did, and to help kids be inventive.
The St. Wendelin news release stated Bowerman received a Toyota Tapestry Grant for physics, and the funds from that grant were used to purchase an ultralight plane kit from Quad City Aircraft Corp.
The project was blessed, Bowerman said, by an offer from Quad City to charge only half price for the kit. The flight Aug. 4 was the culmination of years of student effort and the support of the Lindbergh Foundation, as well as other companies and individuals.
One exceptional donation, said Bowerman, was a whole-aircraft emergency parachute, which was given by BRS Aerospace in Minnesota. A private contribution of space in which to build the aircraft also was donated, and Fostoria's Roppe Corp. allowed Bowerman and St. Wendelin students the use of its hanger for final assembly of the ArchAngel.
Bowerman said the focus of the aircraft is to collect in-flight physical data for online labs. Research is being conducted now, he said.
July 27, the ArchAngel passed inspection by the Cleveland office of the FAA, and, after its inaugural flight, the aircraft made its first public flight Aug. 26 at Fostoria Municipal Airport. Almost 300 people attended the event, Bowerman said.
"It was great," he said.
The ArchAngel was flown by pilot Mike Kramb, he said.
In about three weeks, said Bowerman, the ArchAngel, with planning help from the Lindbergh Foundation, is to be shipped to the Kenya Wildlife Preserve in Africa to monitor and protect wildlife in their national preserves, with a focus on the protection of elephants from poaching.
As the Challenger II projects comes to a close, Bowerman hopes his love of aviation and the hands-on learning experience of the ArchAngel build will help inspire in his students lifelong commitments to the pursuit of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.