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Student interests go airborne

Pilot Ian Underdown brought his helicopter in for a landing on the Cowichan Secondary School field Tuesday. Students interested in career paths as mechanical engineers like Underdown or aviation received a better experience than any classroom could provide. - Don Bodger
Pilot Ian Underdown brought his helicopter in for a landing on the Cowichan Secondary School field Tuesday. Students interested in career paths as mechanical engineers like Underdown or aviation received a better experience than any classroom could provide.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Expanding the horizons of the classroom clearly sends students' enthusiasm soaring into the stratosphere.

A case in point came during a visit to Cowichan Secondary School by Ian Underdown. He arrived via helicopter, landing on the playing field.

Underdown, a Duncan resident and mechanical engineer, is a private pilot and volunteered to take students for a helicopter ride to pique their interest in aviation, mechanics, physics and similar fields.

At the same time, not many people get to soar over the valley on a helicopter so it was seen as a great life experience for the students.

"At CSS James Street, our mechanics and physics teachers helped me select the students who have interest and skills in these areas,'' noted Jeff Rowan, the Cowichan Campus principal.

Kyle Kononowicz, Eric Callewaert and Ben Cracknell were the lucky three chosen to join Underdown for the ride. They were excited just to view the helicopter before going airborne and raved about the opportunity afterwards.

"It was an amazing experience going up in the helicopter, as I've never flown before,'' noted Callewaert. "The pilot was very knowledgeable as he explained how the different systems work in the helicopter.

"I am hoping to become a mechanical engineer so this was an awesome demonstration of where these jobs can take you.''

"It was fantastic to see how machinery like this works,'' offered Kononowicz. "I am interested in forestry engineering so it really piqued my interest.''

"Sitting up front was pretty cool,'' pointed out Cracknell. "You can see all of the controls and there is quite a view outside. I am thinking about programming or engineering so this was great.''

Three Grade 9 students from the Cowichan Secondary Quamichan Campus were afforded the same opportunity Tuesday.

They were chosen based on the work they do around the school: Samantha Ross, organizer of the Quamichan Floor Hockey League and Quamichan Field Hockey Intermural League which run at lunch hours during different times of the year; Declan Walsh, who helps staff and students with computer needs around the school; and Emily Lore, organizer of many student activities that get school spirit going around the Quamichan site.

Cowichan physics teacher Stu Hillyard and calculus teacher Craig Lauridsen have asked Underdown to return to speak in their classes so more students can think about careers associated with science or math.

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