Indiana State University Newsroom

Special Go Figure event at Children’s Museum to feature Indiana State pilots, aviation lessons

May 24, 2011

An Indiana State University instructor and student competing in a race for female pilots will participate in a special aviation event at the Terre Haute Children's Museum next month.

The Send-Off event, which will run from 1 to 3 p.m. June 12, will feature a variety of activities to teach children how science, technology, engineering and math are involved in aviation. ISU flying instructor Melanie Abel and student Kay Brown also will attend the Send-Off, which occurs shortly before they leave to participate in the Air Race Classic, which will begin June 21. The Go Figure program, an initiative created in conjunction with the ISU Center for Mathematics Education to teach third and fourth graders about science, technology, engineering and math, will plan the day's activities.

"Our goal is to learn more about what these two pilots will be doing, and to have Melanie and Kay provide insight into how girls and boys can find ways to pursue this as a hobby or career," said Patty Butwin, co-creator of Go Figure.

Women are under-represented among pilots. Recent figures show that women make up fewer than 10 percent of all pilots, Abel said.

"So we're representing a very small and unique group," she added.

The Air Race Classic features 50 teams of at least two female pilots in a competition that requires them to utilize flying conditions and the aircraft to get the best results. Different kinds of planes are permitted for use in the race; however, each aircraft is given a designated "handicapped speed," while the pilots work to have the plane's ground speed be as faster as the handicapped speed as possible, according to the Air Race Classic website, which is at

As a result, weather elements such as wind also play a factor in determining how well a plane performs. In all, competing teams will have up to four days to fly the more than 2,700-mile, 10-stop course from Iowa City, Iowa, to Mobile, Ala.

"...This is an opportunity to fly across the United States," Abel said, "and adding a competition to it makes it a little more exciting trip than just what the average cross country pilot would go on."

Though this will be Abel's first time participating in the Air Race Classic, Brown raced in the event last year with the ISU team that finished second among collegiate teams and eighth overall.

The Go Figure team planners expect Send-Off attendees to gain aviation knowledge, get an up-close view of a working plane and review checklist pilots typically assess to ensure that the plane is ready to fly. They also will be able to ask questions of the ISU team and other area pilots throughout the day and during a multi-media presentation in the museum's auditorium.

Last fall the ISU football and basketball teams participated in Go Figure events, and members of the Terre Haute Rex Baseball team have worked with Go Figure during events to teach children how math and science are involved in the sport. Earlier this spring, students from a technology education class organized several Go Figure sessions.

"The Go Figure team is delighted to work with volunteers from ISU to support Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley," Butwin said, "and this is just a wonderful opportunity to work with the College of Technology and the aviation department."

Photo: (ISU Photo/Kara Berchem)
Kay Brown (right) and Jessica Campbell, who participated in the Air Race Classic in 2010. Brown and ISU aviation instructor Melanie Abel (not pictured) will be representing ISU in this year's competition.

Contact: Patty Butwin, chairperson of the ISU Center for Mathematics Education advisory board, Indiana State University, 908-432-2633 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or