NIU, Mundelein High School collaborate on project

By Matt Gronlund

Soaring high above the glaciers of Alaska is what NIU’s geology department has in mind. The department is working in conjunction with a Mundelein High School shop class to build a research aircraft.

Initial plans for the project started a year and a half ago between Ross Powell, chairman of NIU’s geology department, and Jim Jackson, a teacher at Mundelein High School.

“The plane will be used to collect data for the geology department,” Powell said. The data will be used to see “how glaciers behave with the greenhouse effect.”

Powell, who has been doing research in Alaska since 1977, said the project is nice because it “combines the research side of things with high school work.”

NIU will not actually own the plane, Powell said. “Mundelein High School bought the airplane,” he said. “Initial start-up costs for us came from some money we already had.” Further funding for research will hopefully come from the National Science Foundation, Powell said.

The plane being built is called a Montana Coyote. “The plane will be capable of landing on glaciers,” Jackson said. A certified pilot, Jackson will fly the plane during testing and during actual research. This will be the fourth airplane built by Jackson and his shop classes. All of the student-built planes are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Production of the aircraft will begin in mid-October,” Jackson said.