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Aviation Science: The “How” of the Up, Up, and Away!


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Have you ever wondered how those big airplanes stay up in the air, what they are made of, or what it takes to become a pilot? Is it true that helicopters don’t really fly, that it’s really that they’re so ugly that the Earth repels them? Well wonder no more!

Join Catherine Gillies, a retired Navy pilot, and explore all of this and more! In this aviation science course we will dig deep into the science of aviation: principles of flight, aerodynamics, instruments and controls, weather, and even interesting things to know about the human body in flight. Along the way, we’ll toss in some special guest speakers and try our hands at some special hands-on projects. You WON’T want to miss this high school science class!

Please see this video by Dr. Gillies for more information about this class!

Please view prerequisites and required supplies below.

Course Details

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Course Min/Max

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Date & Time

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There are no textbooks to buy for this class because we are going to use several free online textbooks. Our primary textbook is the online Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. If you would prefer to have a paper version or audiobook, there are plenty of sources for it.

We are going to complete a hydraulics assignment around week 9. You can collect your own supplies (we will discuss this later on in the semester) or you can buy a simple “STEM Starters” kit (or other brand) online. sells these kits for less than $15. You can find them on Amazon and a variety of other places for a little bit more.

Dr. Catherine Gillies grew up on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland. Her life after high school can be summed up in two words: “Big Adventures!” She graduated from the Naval Academy in 1989, going on to be a helicopter pilot serving on seven aircraft carriers during her career. She later flew in a Marine Corps squadron and taught Naval and Marine student pilots to fly the UH-1N "Huey."  Catherine earned a Masters in Psychology in 1997, a Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2000, and a Doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2003. Catherine retired from the Navy in June 2009.

Catherine has taught undergraduate and graduate courses for three different colleges. She and her family live near Annapolis, Maryland, where she was a homeschooling mom to three kids for 12 years. In her spare time, she likes to sew, bake, swim, sail, and hike. She has also been a Scout leader for 17 years. Through her mentorship, the youth she works with strengthen their servant leadership and become better stewards of God’s gift to us — our big, beautiful Earth.

Check our calendar for start dates

6 reviews for Aviation Science: The “How” of the Up, Up, and Away! (5/5 stars)

  1. Spencer W.

    This class has been exactly what my son needed to love learning again! He loves all things having to do with flight and we wanted to give him the opportunity for his first year of highschool (13 yo) that would give him beneficial study skills in an area he loves. Dr. Gillies has been an awesome teacher and is so encouraging as well as teaching in a way that makes students want to understand. Do your student a favor and don’t just stick to traditional high school courses! Open the world of learning for them by broadening their interests!

  2. JH

    I loved this class, Dr. Gillies is the best teacher ever! Her classes are always new, fun and interesting, teaching us students how to work together to write topics about the great, broad world of aviation. This was a amazing class, and I would recomend this class 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%!!

  3. James J.

    I took this class and loved it!!! It is the best class for people wanting to know more about aviation. If you have any questions in class Dr. Gillies does a really good job answering it. I would give Dr. Gillies 1,000,000,000,000 likes because she is the best, best teacher ever!!!!!

  4. Justin

    This is my son’s favorite class! He regularly shares what he is learning with the family so everyone is learning as well. I wish there were science classes like this available when I was in school. HIGHLY RECOMMEND Dr. Gillies!!!!

  5. Reuben

    WOW! If I could give it a 10 than I would! She teaches so well and interacts very much. I love the student participation and interactive assignments. Just about all of them were amazing and fun. This class opens you up to just about every detail you need to know before you get your PPL or CPL. I love it! Would 1,000,000,000,000,000% Recommend!!!

  6. Melissa A.

    This class was fantastic!! Dr. Gillies is an engaging and fun teacher! She does a fantastic job of making this class interesting, practical, hands-on, and because she is incredibly knowledgeable and has so much varied experience in the field of aviation, this class offers students the opportunity to really feel out whether aviation is a potential field of interest for their future. My son was really tired of typical high school science classes, and didn’t want to proceed with a physics class for junior year, and at the same time, very much considering becoming a pilot after high school. This course was PERFECT to keep him engaged in science while at the same time expose him to all things aviation. I can’t say enough good things about this class. So thankful we found it & so thankful Dr. Gillies teaches it. 100% would recommend it!!

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