4 minute read
Clayton team ‘aims high’ with air show first
from April 2023
Submitted by SHANNON MANN
CLAYTON — With the pandemic restrictions in the rearview mirror and more public events fully opened, one North Carolina favorite is ready to “WOW” attendees once again, and this year it has a new attraction with help from one local robotics team.
The 2023 Wings Over Wayne Air Show will take place May 20-21 at Seymour Johnson
Air Force Base in Goldsboro. The event is North Carolina’s largest, free, public air show that had an estimated 160,000 attendees in 2019. The Navy’s Blue Angels will grace the skies over Goldsboro as the headline act, but fans will be treated to a bit more than just aerial demonstrations this year.
For the first time in the show’s history, the event will focus part of the experience on non-aerial displays. Air show attendees will be able to participate in a 40,000-square foot educational and interactive STEM hangar this year.
STEM, short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is a critical part of the aviation and defense industry. G-Force Robotics, an all-girl, high school robotics team based in Clayton, was asked to help plan the displays and activities.
“As a FIRST Robotics team we work closely with a lot of local and global organizations that promote STEM,” said Sloan Mann, a ninth-grader at Clayton High School and member of
G-Force Robotics. “We are also a Department of Defense STEM sponsored team … so it made a lot of sense to include us.”
The team has been working on the air show STEM hangar since last summer, sending emails to coordinate displays and even scouting out other air shows to see what their STEM hangars offer.
Shelby Anderson, a 10th grader who is homeschooled and a member of G-Force Robotics, traveled to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland last year to see what type of hands-on activities their air show offered. “The NASA displays were by far the most popular. There was never a time someone wasn’t at one of their booths,” Anderson said. “Of all the display types, my favorite was the hands-on displays. Not only were they fun to participate in, but the people at the booths were very excited to teach others about what they do.”
With nearly 30 different displays from NASA to NASCAR, the team couldn’t resist putting their own spin on the hangar. “I reached out to FIRST Robotics to ask if they could join us for this event. We are bringing in teams from across North Carolina to show everyone at the air show what FIRST is all about,” said Sydney Matisoff, a 10th-grader at Neuse Charter School and member of G-Force Robotics.
Matisoff helped coordinate the participation of a full FIRST Robotics Competition field with teams from across the state coming to play exhibition matches throughout the weekend. “Robots offer many cool factors. Many people don’t know what robotics is … it is not a job talked about in school. I believe with robotics being featured at the air show that people may find a new interest,” she said.
From industry and education to defense and entertainment, the team thinks the STEM hangar will offer something for everyone. “STEM is so important for our nation’s future,” said Maj. Nathan “Cliff” Johnson, WOW Air Show director and F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. “We’re hoping something in this STEM hangar sparks the interest of the next Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager or Katherine Johnson. This is a great hands-on, fun addition to the air show experience, and it’s been awesome having these young women involved in the planning.”