Three air traffic controllers helped children from ACE Charter School in San Jose use their math skills last Tuesday at NASA Ames. The children played a simulation game in which the goal was to line up planes over Modesto with 3 knots spacing between them in a set time. They calculated the optimal speed for each plane. If all the planes went at 600 knots they might get too close. If they went too slowly they might not get to Modesto in time. Check out the NASA movie to understand how the game is played.
The event was sponsored by NASA, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Representing the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales gave a heartfelt speech in which he said that although he'd grown up 2 miles from NASA he was never invited to visit the facility as a child. He reminded everyone of the great resources and opportunities that are available locally.
The children said they didn't have big screens to play on at school like they did at NASA. Muhammed Chaudhry, CEO of SVEF, inspired the class by telling the kids that he would see that the problem was fixed. (Note: if any businesses have fairly new computers with large flat screens that they want to donate, schools are a great cause).
Check out the game for yourself and play online using just your web browser.
When people talk about the crowded skies and I look up and see empty space, I now understand how the planes are scheduled. If you want insights into what an air traffic controller does, then it's worth trying the game. The air traffic controllers who attended had long years of service with the FAA. The training takes about 3 years, and includes a 3-month initial course at the FAA's training center, followed up by an apprenticeship on the job.