Gordon Schimmel

I began my teaching career with two years of Peace Corps service in Morocco followed by three years on the Peace Corps training staff in Washington, D.C.  During a 31-year career in public education I have taught elementary, middle, high school and college students, supervised innovative education programs for the Massachusetts Department of Education, served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the Falmouth, Massachusetts Public Schools and completed my career as Superintendent of Schools in Mansfield, Connecticut.

My interest in modeling began at an early age with venerable stick and tissue free-flight warbird kits that, quite honestly, I never could successfully fly.  After a multi-decade modeling hiatus I returned to simple free-flight modeling, a few of which I actually have be able to fly!  I hold a Private Pilot’s license and have enjoyed numerous full-scale airborne adventures with friends in aerobatic biplanes, sailplanes, hang gliders and parasails – all great fun.  However, I have am now more  focused on pursuing my interest in free-flight models, a much less-expensive activity with significantly lower risk!

I am a twenty-two year veteran of the Academy’s Education Committee, serving as Chair for fourteen years.  In this capacity, I have been fortunate to be able to secure a number of grants for the AMA’s education department, beginning with Inventing Flight, Dayton, Ohio’s Centennial of Flight celebration in 2003, that eventually led to partnerships with the Arconic (formerly Alcoa) Foundation and NASA.  I am a co-author of AeroLab, the AMA’s classroom-based STEM activities for middle and high school students.  Currently, I also serve as Chair of the Academy’s Scholarship Committee.

My growth as a modeler and educator has been enhanced by the AMA professional staff in Muncie, Indiana, as well as by my colleagues on the Education Committee; it is remarkable how many talented individuals come together under the AMA banner to offer newcomers an opportunity to participate in the recreational and educational benefits of model aviation.  My enjoyment in being a member of the Academy has always been as much about the people I have been privileged to meet as the good things I have experienced in model aviation.  As an educator, I am firmly committed to life-long learning and my personal AMA mantra is a simple: Learn, Grow, Fly with Us!


Two Classroom STEM Activities Using Aerolab


Jetstream & FPG-9

The Science

The point of these lessons, what some educators call "The Big Idea," is that both models illustrate Newton's Third Law: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." The lift that enables the FPG-9 and the Jetstream to fly, nicely illustrates this Law, as does the action of the control surfaces on the FPG-9. The glider activity gives students the chance to use control surface settings to bank and turn (even loop) the plane as desired. In addition, the Jetstream activity gives students practice in manipulating variables such as weight and drag, and provides an opportunity for them to work together in teams to design the fastest flying airplane.

These two activities originally were written for STEM classroom presentations, but they easily can be modified for use with community groups by simply omitting the mathematical calculations and encouraging children to observe the differences in flight performance when variables such as weight and drag are added.

Room Set-Up

A "typical" classroom setting to do these presentations is rare; district facilities vary in size configuration so these instructions are written for the most ideal of circumstances. A fundamental requirement is that student desks must be movable to enable sufficient fling space to be created in the room to accommodate FPG-9 and Jetstream test flights.

Introduction to the Academy of Model Aeronautics

Talking Points:

  • The AMA provides the organizational support for more than 2,400 model flying clubs in the U.S.
  • The Academy was the original STEM organization! When Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in 1927, model airplane clubs and ensuing competitions were seen as an educational pathway to a technical education-thus our name. The Academy of Model Aeronautics.

Assembly Instructions for the FPG-9 and Jetstream Activities

Important: Presenters should review the two AeroLab videos on how to assemble and fly the FPG-9 and the rubber-powered balsa model, as well as practice flying each model before doing a presentation with teachers and students. Below is a history of the AMA/ARCONIC partnership and assembly instructions for the FPG-9.

The FPG-9 (Foam Plate Glider, 9-Inch)


Prep and Set-Up

  • An AMA/ARCONIC "Flight Research Kit" containing 35 FPG-9s is usually sufficient to do a typical class. Instructions in the kit will help provide the presenter with adequate information on how to conduct the lesson.


  • Three or four " built-examples" of FPG-9s greatly simplify instruction during the lesson.
  • Scissors for each student are necessary to assemble FPG-9s.
  • Pennies for the FPG-9 are necessary for each student.
  • The classroom teacher can help distribute an FPG-9, scissors, and a six-inch strip of masking tape to each student that will be used for FPG-9 assembly.

Assembly and Flight Instruction

  • Assemble FPG-9
  • Demonstrate launch technique
  • Give the students 10 minutes to test fly the glider

The "Total Control" Video

If time permits, show "Total Control," the 10-minute video that illustrates how the Wright Brothers unlocked the secret of controllable flight.

Conclude the session by reminding the students that this model aircraft flies on flat wings, illustrating the lifting power of Newton's Third Law: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."


Instructions for the Guillow's Jetstream Activity


Prep and Set-Up

  • Three or four "built-examples" of the Jetstream greatly simplifies instruction during the lesson.
  • Typically, the classroom teacher will have a desk-size wastebasket handy tha tyou can borrow to use as a platform for the pylon.
  • Assemble the pylon with a tether slightly less than two-meters, and mount it on the inversted wastebasket.
  • Position wastebasket with pylon and tether in the flying space at the rear of the room.
  • Using masking tape, lay out four "hash-marks" at 0, 90, 180, 270 degrees around the flight perimeter, to enable students to more accurately sport takeoffs and landing.
  • If at all possible, test-fly the Jetstream on the tether before the students arrive.

Assembly and Flight Instruction

  • Demonstrate the short time rubber-band motor provided in the kit
  • Demonstrate stretch-winding competition rubber-band, proper launch techniques
  • Assemble the Jetstream
  • With the classroom teacher's help, divide the group into teams of four to wind the motor and help each team with their initial flights.

Conclude the session by reminding the students that this model aircraft flies on flat wings, illustrating the lifting power of Newton's Third Law: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."



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