Parkes Christian School off to Moomba Birdman Rally in Melbourne

On a mission to challenge his Year 11 and 12 students, Parkes Christian School teacher Jason Wynstra has entered the school in the Moomba Birdman Rally in Melbourne.

It’ll be the second time the school has competed at the event, with students aiming to go one better than their third placing in the Hawk category (longest distance) in 2015.

The Birdman Rally – held this Sunday, March 12 – is a competition for home-made gliders, hang-gliders and human-powered aircraft.

“We’re going the distance...we’ll enter the Hawks again,” Jason said.

“The whole aim was for students to build a structure that would fly.

“It’s an engineering challenge for us, it has lots of mathematics and testing.”

The project all adds to the students’ design and technology studies, which involves many of the same outcomes they need to cover.

Among those outcomes was ensuring the wings weighed as little as possible.

It’s taken students – with the help of members from the Sports Aircraft Association of Australia and Parkes community groups such as Parkes aeromodellers and individuals –  about 100 hours to design and construct the aircraft.

The final product is a glider made from bamboo, strong engineer aerofoil, window film, PVC pipes, cable ties and sticky tape; that can also be disassembled into three sections for easy transport.

“We’ve been working on and off throughout last year and intensely this year,” Jason said.

“There’s been a lot of research on wind profiles and building materials.

“We managed to get the wings down to 20kg, we had to make sure it’s as light as possible to get as much lift as possible at slow speed, and strong enough to carry a pilot.

“We used window film, which has proven to be a lot strong than we thought, last time we used bale wrap.”

But there’s more to the competition than just getting your glider to fly.

It’s also part of a fundraising effort for charity, which this year the school has chosen to donate their funds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Australia.

So far they’ve raised just over $1700.

Behind the effort are Year 11 students Madelynne Capple, Ethan Peters, Elly Collins, Nicholas Strudwick, Michelle Mulligan and William Thompson, and Year 12 students Mitchell Day, James Simpson and Oliver Gregson.

“They’ve all found it to be an experience that’s different and unique, I think it’s extraordinary,” Jason said.

“They’re really excited to be part of the atmosphere.”

Jason, along with support staff member Wendy Richards and her former hang-gliding pilot husband Dave, will accompany the students to Melbourne on the weekend.

Neil Unger will kindly transport the glider down on his little truck.

Jason wanted to take the opportunity to throw the challenge out there to other schools in Parkes.

“I’d love to see other schools get involved and enter into it,” he said.

“Come down and enjoy a great event.”

Jason and the students would like to thank the whole Parkes community who helped support them in a variety of ways this year.