Soweto pilot uses aviation to help township pupils reach dizzying heights
Johannesburg - A Soweto man has come up with a plan to get township learners enthusiastic about the aeronautical space as well as using that to learn about STEM subjects.
Social entrepreneur Joe Phalwane from Diepkloof, Soweto, feels it is important to show children through his programme, AeroBuddies, the heights they can reach.
He founded the programme in 2016 and hopes that not only will the children learn more about aviation but that the programme will also develop their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills.
Joe Phalwane with his certificate at the Civil Aviation Authority awards last year.
“I developed and customized a programme for children to use aviation and aeronautical science to teach them about Stem subjects,” he said
He said in their flagship programme, the learners are taught how to fly in a flight simulator. A flight simulator is a device that artificially re-creates aircraft flight and the environment in which it flies.
“It does the exact same thing that would be done by a pilot at flight school, the only difference, he said, is that the customisation is uniquely modified to their specific age group.
“We work mainly with primary school children from grades 1 to 7. This is an aftercare school flying club where parents can sign their children up,” Phalwane said.
He said that they were ready to expand their wings outside the province. His aim is to lift off into areas such as the the North West and Limpopo and is even thinking of landing in Nigeria with his idea.
“We are not limited to Gauteng. We go to schools and have other commercial partners and use other models such as birthday parties to help spread the need for STEM subjects,” he said
Phalwane said most of the learners were surprised by the simulation as plenty of children across racial lines weren't exposed to aviation.
"What is also fascinating is that because it looks like a game they get excited but unconsciously not realising that they are learning, said Phalwane.
Some of the learners having fun with the flight simulator.
He said the process of learning to fly comprises using Math and Science so the children get to use those subjects while having fun.
"The idea isn’t to make the learners pilots as such but rather to expose them to a broader variety of STEM related industries.
“So then when they get to high school, they can choose math and science as subjects which will then get them ready for 4th Industrial Revolutions related careers. Aviation is just a tool, others may use robotics or chemistry based programmes,” he said.
Other programmes include aero-modelling where learners are taught how to build drones along with rocket building.
Phalwane said he has worked in the aviation industry for over a decade and he attributes two reasons for him to create AeroBuddies.
“Sometimes whilst I was in a flight I would see children wanting to enter the cockpit. Secondly while I was training for my private pilot licence, I saw a child who was seven years old.
"The child was doing what is called pre-flight checks and the person who who does this must really know what they are doing. The child did everything correctly the father trusted him. They hopped into the aircraft and left.
"This is when I realised that this could be something I could introduce to many other children," he said.