Ideas that grow into something real and wonderful often come from the most unexpected places. Ask Eric Savage how he got the idea for his company, First Flight Education, and he will tell you that it happened on a Saturday when he was doing research at a university with pilots in a flight simulator. His wife, a principal at the time, came in and was so taken aback by what she saw that she planted the seed for a new business: “Make these simulators mobile so that you can get them into the classroom, because students would love it.”
It took some time after that conversation and some help from NACET (Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) to make First Flight Education come to life. NACET gave Savage help through its hands-on business incubation engagement program, which is designed to turn innovation into viable companies. Savage saw his company grow from an idea to reality in 2011.
Savage takes some $29,000 worth of equipment into schools for K-12 students to gain a real “hands-on” experience that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through the use of flight simulators, iPads and electronic wind tunnels. Savage says students are exposed to the same software from Lockheed Martin that is used by NASA and the military. To say the least, students love the experience. For many, it opens up new options and opportunities for the future.
Savage does not just work with K-12 students. He offers professional development workshops for teachers and other businesses. His workshops can be one day or more. He even has a five-day workshop for teachers during the summer as well as “camps” for students. Whether he is working with adults or children, his goal is the same – to “serve the inquiry, excitement and awareness levels” of all involved.
Parents are encouraged to become involved in Savage’s program. He said, “Research shows that parental involvement offers a shared experience and these shared experiences help with a child’s performance and achievement in school and beyond.” To this end, First Flight offers Mini-Flight Camps on Friday nights through Saturday. These camps teach about cockpit instruments, communication with Air Traffic Control, understanding airport environments, navigation and flight planning and flying a special mission. Not a bad way to spend a weekend!
Eric Savage is very proud of his company and of its mission: To encourage, engage, entertain, and educate, with the coolest technology, passionate instructors, cutting-edge research, best techniques, and the most unique solutions available. He follows the Arizona Department of Education K-12 curriculum standards of science and math for the state of Arizona and he has worked with many school districts throughout Arizona, including most recently, charter schools in Northern Arizona and the Phoenix area. He is interested in growing and expanding throughout the state.
According to a recent article in Science Scope, published by the National Science Teachers Association for middle school teachers, “Varying your teaching strategies is one of the keys to successful classroom instruction.” Clearly, Savage has found a way to make this happen. He hopes that more and more schools will find funding to allow his program and others that promote STEM to be a regular part of the curriculum every year. He says that he has been able to go to the Round Valley School District in Eager more than once and he can tell that his repeated presence has had an impact on the students. “One student came up to me and thanked me for the presentation and then told me that he now wants to go to college and study about space and flight.” Savage went on to say that prior to his coming to this school district, that idea had never entered the student’s mind.
On his homepage, Savage has a short video that shows the many tools he uses when working with students or conducting a camp or professional development workshop for educators and business leaders. It is exciting to watch and no doubt even more exciting to actually experience. Savage has successfully taken an idea and created a pathway for others to experience the magic of flight. FBN