Middle school students participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program had the opportunity to learn from the youngest person and the first black pilot to fly solo around the world in a single-engine plane.
Captain Barrington Irving and the Flying Classroom visited students in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program recently at Kentucky State University.
The Verizon Innovative Learning Program (VIL) seeks to empower a new generation of minority men by giving them lifelong technology and entrepreneurship skills to build future innovations and create brighter futures for themselves and their families.
Irving shared his incredible story and the students later participated in a drone obstacle course, a rubber band helicopter activity, autonomous engineering and coding with a ramps course and an activity where they printed a 3D biomechanical hand.
Irving shared how he turned a negative of growing up in some of the harshest neighborhoods of Miami into the positive of becoming a pilot, educator, Guinness Book of World Records record holder and an entrepreneur.
He’s gone on adventures to bring STEM subjects to life. Adventures like HALO jumping, handling a highly venomous cone snail, highlighting food waste by eating food out of dumpsters for 48 hours, handling sea snakes and performing oral surgery on a tiger. He uses the material and the things he learned to captivate his young audiences, in this case, a room full of middle school students.
Afterward, the room was abuzz, and hands were raising faster than Irving could answer questions.
“Why would you eat food from a dumpster?”
“When you were finished with the surgery did the tiger become fierce?”
“Why didn’t you keep the tiger tame during surgery instead of putting it to sleep?”
Shawn Cecil, 14, of Louisville, said Irving’s message taught him he could do anything and that nothing could hold him back.
“He’s a great inspiration, coming from a difficult place and doing so much,” Cecil said.
Camryn Kelly, 10, said Irving was an inspiration to her.
“He inspires me to be a bigger person,” Kelly said.
Derrick Gilmore, director of the Office of Research, Grants and Sponsored Programs, said Irving has worked with the VIL program for the past two years.
“Our students’ initial encounter with Captain Irving took place at the VIL Summit in San Francisco, California in 2016,” Gilmore said.
Irving, Gilmore said, can inspire students by his tenacity to achieve his goals. Students can also gain insight into pathways to careers in STEM, Gilmore said.