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Posted 08/22/2016 12:47PM

Mercy Academy students use STEM education to build flying craft

Teacher to launch craft in Red Bull Flugtag

Six Mercy Academy students spent their summer building a flying craft for the Red Bull Flugtag. The students are the only school group to enter the event, which was first held in Vienna, Austria, in 1991.

Steve Hammer, the fine arts and engineering teacher leading the build, hopes working on the project will inspire the STEM students. When team Mercy-No-Mercy launches its craft into the Ohio River at the Aug. 27 event, Hammer will serve as pilot.

Jill Vorreiter, a junior at Mercy, has already used her experience on the build to further her education. Over the summer she spent a week attending flight camp at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "Because building it was so hands-on, the things they were explaining to me just seemed to make sense. It's motivated me even more so that not only is an aeronautical career possible, it's something that I truly want to pursue," Vorreiter said.

Being able to have that hands-on experience did not come without challenges. "There were a lot of challenging times when building, but the thing that was the most challenging was constructing and producing the wing. This was complicated because we had to make sure the wing's ribs were all the correct size and had the same measurements," said Kendra Yurt, a freshman at Mercy.

Mercy Academy is the first all-girl STEM-certified school in the country, and the first school of any kind in Kentucky. Vorreiter values her education and the experiences she's had at Mercy and feels prepared to continue her studies. "I've found that aviation is something I have a passion for. I'm not going to get this kind of experience anywhere else. This is what they were doing at one of the best universities in the country that specializes in this, and here I was, a junior in high school, living my dream just two days a week. Just being in a project like this builds who you are as a person, your character, your accountability and your relationships, and it makes you feel like you can just take on the world," she said.

This summer's education was not limited to aeronautics. "Once I trusted them enough to tell them what I thought, that's where our best ideas came in. We all brought new tweaks and new perspectives. You find out how others react and how to turn that into something amazing." Vorreiter said.

Mr. Hammer hopes the lessons learned this summer will stay with the girls, both in and out of the classroom. "I want my students to learn that they should fearlessly put themselves out there. I want them to learn that it is okay to fail, and to fail hard. For me, life is about making mistakes as long as we learn from them. I hope my students approach everything they do with this same outlook," he said.

Teams will be judged on flight distance, creativity of the craft and showmanship. The event will be held at Waterfront Park in Louisville, Ky.

Other students working on the build and their year in school:

Kennedy Yurt (Junior)

Tessa Duncan (Sophomore)

Angelina Salomon (Sophomore)

Ellen Schneidtmiller (Sophomore)

5801 Fegenbush Lane Louisville, Kentucky 40228

P 502 671-2010

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