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Genius Camel Makes Education Pragmatic and Promising

By Frederick A. Johnsen

July 25, 2018 - It’s an old problem with a new twist: how does one make education relevant and engaging. Bored students have made paper airplanes for diversion, but inspired students in Ohio made a real airplane for stimulation. The project is the brainchild of Casey Putsch, founder of Genius Garage in Bowling Green, Ohio.

The result is a full-sized Sopwith Camel replica, displayed (but not yet flown) at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. Casey started Genius Garage six years ago in an effort to give high school and college students pragmatic and exciting real-world projects to augment the academic exercises that are part of a traditional education. The Camel at Oshkosh has a brace of cowl-mounted machine guns that were created by one of the students to enhance the appearance of the airplane; its wood-and-wicker seat was handmade by the team.

Casey said he chose the Airdrome Aeroplanes Sopwith Camel kit because its construction allows builders to make some choices that help meld a student team into collaborators. The Camel was assembled in four months; a week ago it was unpainted. At AirVenture it wears a fresh coat of latex house paint representing the 1,000th Camel that was painted in honor of the Egyptian god Horus as Heru-Behutet, during an era when Egyptology was prominent in England.

Casey is passionate about aviation and education, and he sought a way to make a century-old biplane design relevant to today’s students. The construction project, he said, equips students with valuable experience that adds to the bona fides of a resume. Brock Hoops and Thomas Walbom, mechanical engineering majors from the University of Toledo who worked on construction of the biplane, are helping Casey show the Camel at AirVenture this year.

Casey, who has built prototype automobiles, admits he hated his own college experience. That informed his decision to do something like Genius Garage in an effort to make education meaningful, relevant, and stimulating. Students participate at no cost, and Genius Garage is a nonprofit organization that cultivates donors to keep it operating.

Casey is building Genius Garage in Ohio as the flagship for what could become a nationwide series of hands-on centers that present high school and college students with real-world challenges and projects.

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