Michael Long is probably looking up into the sky a lot this week.
That is because the 2014 Weyauwega-Fremont High School graduate lives within a couple miles of Waupaca Municipal Airport-Brunner Field.
And, like many area airports, Waupaca’s Brunner Field is seeing plenty of planes during this week’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
That is fine with Long, because he loves aviation.
“I’ve always had an interest in flight,” he said.
The son of Brian and Elis Long, he lives with his family on a farm off Reek Road.
His dad owns a single-seater plane and is getting his pilot’s license, he said.
“We’re actually building a Zenith CH 750 Cruzer,” said Long, who also wants to obtain his pilot’s license.
Long plans to study aviation avionics at Fox Valley Technical College’s Oshkosh campus.
His science background and the aviation-related experiences he was part of the past several years will benefit him.
At W-F High School, Long took all the science courses offered, except anatomy, and several technology education classes.
During his senior year at W-F High School, he was among a group of area students who worked on building an airplane at Central County Airport, outside of Ogdensburg.
Jerry Graf, who like Long loves aviation, is a founder of Aviators By Design, a nonprofit organization that sponsors Aviation Explorer Post 9868 and is providing opportunities for youth interested in aviation.
As part of that program, students began building an airplane kit in the Homebuilders Hangar on the AirVenture grounds in 2012.
Long worked on that plane and started going to Central County Airport last September to work on building another one.
Students from seven high schools participate, meeting every other Tuesday evening.
Through that experience, Long learned from Graf about a competition called the 2014 Aviation Design Challenge, and W-F science teacher Mike Hansen then looked into it.
Hansen and W-F technology education teacher Joe Gruentzel go to the airport with their students.
The 2014 Aviation Design Challenge was sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the nonprofit Build A Plane.
Their goal, in sponsoring the challenge, is to encourage Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills among U.S. high school students.
This was the second year of the contest.
As part of the contest, students used “Fly to Learn” curriculum and training to learn the fundamentals of aerospace engineering and flight. They then used software powered by X-Plane to apply what they learned by designing and flying their own virtual airplane.
Each school that competed in the challenge had to modify a Glasair Sportsman airplane to fly from one airport to another and was scored on how much payload the plane carried, how much fuel was used and the time the flight took.
Judges from GAMA’s engineering team selected the winning school, taking into consideration the design features based on what the students applied from the curriculum, as it relates to aerospace engineering principles.
The students also had to submit a one-page essay about how the competition enhanced their knowledge of STEM.
“The kids from Aviators By Design put together a really nice entry for the GAMA project. The entry consisted of a paper explaining what they learned from the project, a screen shot of the plane with test score and the file containing the plane design,” Hansen said.
The members of the team were Long, Susie Stalker, Ryan Johnson and Logan Feltz.
“Everyone contributed, but they would all agree that Michael took the lead and put in the bulk of the hours testing and refining dozens of designs,” Hansen said. “Once he got his hands on the simulator, he just ran with it. It was really fun seeing how engaged Michael became with the project.”
A total of 79 schools competed in the challenge, and while Aviators By Design’s entry did not win, its entry was one of four displayed at the selection committee’s annual meeting in May.
Long worked on the entry during physics class, at lunch and after school.
“I worked on it at school and at home. More than 50 hours were invested in it,” he said. “I wanted to do it because it was a nice, challenging project to do.”
Long said it was also fun.
“This is what I like,” he said. “I look forward to going to school at Oshkosh, and I want to thank Mr. Hansen and Jerry Graf and Aviators by Design.”