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Icon for: Matthew Cass


Southwestern Community College

Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative


2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative has worked with NASA Science Mission Directorate to bring STEM resources into rural western North Carolina.  Kites have proven to be a fun and engaging tool for all levels of students.  With kites students discover the mechanics of flight, the principles of aerodynamic design, and even explore methods of remote sensing.

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Discussion from the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase (9 posts)
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 13, 2019 | 06:29 a.m.

    Well, who doesn't love kites?  My grandfather made my first one out of willow twigs and brown paper bags, and it was magic.  I frankly have never thought about the physics of them, and how they compare to airplane wings or other kinds of foils -- and the video got me intrigued!

         You mention that this project has done good things for your colleagues — can you talk a little more about how you've shared this withn your institution, or with colleagues elsewhere? 

  • Icon for: Matthew Cass

    Matthew Cass

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:37 a.m.

    Hi Brian,

    First, thank you for your interest! 

    To answer your question - outside the college I routinely work with K-12 schools in the region bringing kites to the classroom or their after-school programs.  I've even helped a teacher develop his own program at one of our local schools -a quick shout out to Bill Sparks at the Jackson County School of Alternatives who uses kites in his class!  As for internally, I'm the only one using kites at the moment but I work closely with colleagues who utilize high altitude ballooning and model rockets to augment learning - I find kites fit nicely with these types of hands-on activities.

  • Icon for: Matthew Cass

    Matthew Cass

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:40 a.m.

    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks for dropping by to visit. I look forward to reading your comments/feedback and answering your questions.  The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative has many faces in its mission to improve STEM Education in rural western North Carolina.  I personally feel that kites is the one that is most accessible to all learners at all levels.  If you'd like to know more of what we do in the region please visit our website!

    Thanks again for stopping by!

    Your Friend in Science,

    Matt Cass

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    User Researcher & Evaluator
    May 13, 2019 | 02:35 p.m.

    Great video!  It's impressive that you found a tool for teaching that appeals to both young and older students.  I was wondering if you could expand a little on how your older students apply physics to the kite-flying experience beyond observing.  Do they get to modify the string or the kite itself?  If not, is that perhaps an extension you would consider making to the program in the future?  What other new directions would you like to take this program if you could?  Thanks for sharing your exciting work!

  • Icon for: Matthew Cass

    Matthew Cass

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:35 p.m.

    Hi Victor,

    My older students do make and modify kites (e.g. the addition of tails) in independent study but the majority of research we engage in involves determining kinematic relationships for a kite during ascent.  Using weather sensors we take atmospheric readings, derive that altitude versus time and determine a polynomial function that best describes the ascent.  This is typically of the third or fourth order and helps students experience physical concepts beyond the common position/velocity/acceleration as jerk is almost always present in their analysis.

    It is a great (and fun!) way to explore these higher level concepts in a natural way - it really helps my students realize that a majority of the modeling we do in physics with a constant acceleration model isn't really "real world" but that shouldn't deter them from analyzing a complex problem with higher order mathematics!


  • Icon for: Ginger Fitzhugh

    Ginger Fitzhugh

    Senior Research Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 04:46 p.m.

    Very cool! I'm curious how you have measured the impact of your work, especially with students of different ages. Could you describe how your project has approached evaluation?

  • Icon for: Matthew Cass

    Matthew Cass

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 11:22 a.m.

    Hi Ginger,

    Great question.  We do track the number and some minor demographic information (grade/location) information on all the students we work with to see how many students experience the kite program and we do follow up with the instructors to offer them continued support in the classroom (we track how many more engagement opportunities we have with the instructor and what they take from our project into the classroom).  Lastly, we try and gather anecdotal evidence where the students give us feedback on how they felt and what they learned.  For larger groups, in which we support them through a longer period of time, we gather pre/post information to see if their attitudes have shifted towards STEM, STEM Learning, and STEM Careers during that time.

  • Icon for: Jeannie Whitlock

    Jeannie Whitlock

    i3 STEM Lead Instructional Coach
    May 15, 2019 | 11:58 a.m.

    What a great program.  We are attempting to do something similar but on a much smaller scale during our STEM Summer Camp.  Our camp theme is "Adventures in Aero" and the first week is based on flight and has a kite building PBL as part of the learning.  Is there someone in the Nashville area who does something similar to your program?  Do you have any curriculum that you could share?  Do you want to make a trip to Nashville during the first week in June to be a speaker at our camp?


  • Icon for: Matthew Cass

    Matthew Cass

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 12:46 p.m.

    Hi Jeannie,

    I would love to come visit however my calendar in June is already booked.  Let me ask around and I'll see if I can find someone in your area.  Feel free to email me directly at mcassATsouthwesternccDOTedu

    What age group are you planning on working with?


  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.