Week 17 Monday Motivation

Piute County School District,

December 23rd and December 26th are typically the two busiest travel days of the year. Flights full of holiday travelers will fill the air around the globe. The power of flight is a miracle of human ingenuity. In June this year a retiring United States spy plane set a record for speed on a coast to coast flight, making the trip in just over 68 minutes. The plane reached speeds over 2,000 miles per hour. The first coast to coast flight took 27 hours. Harnessing the power of flight took many years and was an inspiring process.

Though many names around the globe claimed to be the first in flight, substantial evidence suggests that the Wright brothers of Ohio were truly the first. The Wright brothers owned a bicycle shop and were addicted to working. When bicycles and newspapers could not satisfy their desire to learn and work, they began learning everything they could about flight. They sent letters requesting every book in existence on the subject.

In 1901, just two years after the brothers began their experiments with flight, Wilbur Wright was invited to speak at a conference of engineers. Though most of his speech was technical in nature, Wilbur did take a moment towards the beginning to be philosophical about how we could learn to fly. Before the large audience he held out a single piece of paper and said…. 

“If I take this piece of paper, and after placing it parallel with the ground, quickly let it fall, it will not settle steadily down as a staid, sensible piece of paper ought to do, but it insists on contravening every recognized rule of decorum, turning over and darting hither and thither in the most erratic manner, much after the style of an untrained horse. Yet this is the style of steed that men must learn to manage before flying can become an everyday sport. The bird has learned this art of equilibrium, and learned it so thoroughly that its skill is not apparent to our sight. We only learn to appreciate it when we try to imitate it. Now, there are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: One is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks. The latter system is the safest, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.”

The Wright brothers were different from other flight enthusiasts because they were not concerned with simply attaching newly developed gas engines to experimental gliders. The Wrights were most concerned with harnessing wind and air to control their flight, before they concerned themselves with means of propulsion. Once Orville and Wilbur felt confident they had control over the steering of their gliders, they began researching engines. In December 1903, they made the first free, controlled, and sustained flights in a power-driven, heavier-than-air machine. The longest flight on the first day was only 59 seconds for 582 feet, but it confirmed to the world that flight was indeed possible.

The Wright brothers father, Milton Wright, was an evangelical christian bishop and was terrified his boys would be killed in their experiments. Many of the early experimenters were killed by their machines. For this reason Milton only allowed the boys to fly together one time in their life. He could not bear the thought of losing both in one tragic accident. He himself would go on one flight with Orville when he was 82 years old. Orville would later recount his father saying at 350 feet in the air "Higher, Orville, higher!"

I thought you might appreciate Wilbur’s description of learning to ride a bucking horse by watching it from the fence. While there is certainly value in teacher training programs, much of the art of teaching is learned by doing. As an educator I wonder how you instill the passion for investigation and learning that the Wright brothers had in students. Of his growing years Orville said, "we were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity." Thank you for encouraging intellectual interests and arousing academic curiosity.

Have a great week 17,


Note: When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon he had with him a small piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers first flying machine. In May this year the United States conducted the first remote controlled helicopter flight on Mars. The small helicopter also carried a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers' invention. Both the Ohio and North Carolina state quarters depict the Wright Flyer.

Week 17 Wright Brothers

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Piute County School District
500 North Main - P.O. Box 69
Junction, Utah 84740-0069
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