The Ivy Center for Education students discovered how a pilot prepares for flight and heard highlights of his career. Derek Robinson, a Pine Bluff native, retired U.S. Air Force major and first officer at Delta Airlines, was the guest speaker during the Ivy Center's hybrid meeting at The Generator on Jan. 10. The session was for middle and high school students enrolled in the Future Engineers Program with the center, according to a news release. Robinson encouraged Ivy Center students to go into aeronautical engineering fields to help build the next generation of jet engines and was excited that students were working on building a model jet engine and wanted to see the finished product. The pilot used a model of a commercial plane to begin discussing how jet engines work. Robinson also explained how he makes sure the airplane is safe for takeoff and landing by first checking maintenance paperwork to find out the status of the engine, to make sure it is healthy and in good condition before moving to the runway. He physically checks the engine to make sure there are no fluids leaking from the engine. During the presentation, he shared a copy of an engine instrument panel guide used to determine the performance of the engine and explained how weather affects takeoff decisions. He explained that on a commercial flight, there are two pilots: one to fly the plane and the other to monitor the instruments. Pine Bluff High School student Sylvana Burgess asked Robinson how he deals with bad weather. "Pilots try to avoid bad weather, which includes tornadoes, thunderstorms, and freezing rain," he said. ESTEM Scholar Kennedi Scaife asked, "What are the average flight times to different cities?" Robinson responded by providing a few examples and stated that "there are various times, but it depends on the city pair for the trip." Robinson's nephew, Patrick Robinson Jr. asked, "What is the strangest thing you have ever seen while flying?" The pilot Robinson responded, "When my nephew Patrick Robinson Jr. and my niece Tamia Robinson were flying with me from Memphis to Atlanta and they went to sleep instead of keeping me company on the trip." Pine Bluff High School student Alala Bugg asked if Robinson has ever been in the air and did not know what to do or panicked. He discussed his military training and how his instructors taught him and others that "if you panic you will not make it." He used that statement as a metaphor to explain to students to "always keep your cool regardless of what is going on." He also discussed experiencing engine problems while flying over the Middle East, along with the threat of being shot down. "Regardless of what is going on, we have to always keep our cool and that applies to all aspects of life," he said. Also during the meeting, Robinson recognized his family members who were in attendance and acknowledged the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where many of his relatives attended and will attend in the future. He also spoke highly of UAPB Chancellor Emeritus Lawrence A. Davis Jr., and his wife, Ethel Davis, both deceased, who taught him geometry at Pine Bluff High School, and felt he was blessed to have so many teachers and family members who were associated with UAPB. Robinson thanked the students for being in the Ivy Center for Education program. "We know that Pine Bluff is putting out intelligent and talented young people that are committed to doing something great with their lives, to make society better and making all of us look good," he said. Robinson has served as a Boeing 757/767 Domestic/International, Atlanta-based commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines since 2015 and has flown regular scheduled passenger/cargo services for numerous colleges/universities and other operations. He has flown more than 200 missions over Iraq and Afghanistan to support the Global War on Terrorism, and numerous airlift and medical evacuation missions of troops and vital resupply equipment throughout the Middle East. He's earned numerous awards and decorations, according to the news release. Robinson graduated from Pine Bluff High School in May 1991. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Henderson State University in May 1995 as an aviation major/mathematics minor. He served in the Air Force from August 1996 through November 2016 as a KC-135 Air Refueling Tanker instructor/evaluator pilot. Also during the Ivy Center meeting, Sederick Charles Rice, a UAPB associate professor of biology, acknowledged Veronica Robinson-Young, who helped connect Robinson with the Ivy Center and the other military officers and pilots who joined the meeting in support of Robinson, including Eric Burdette, John Eaves and Ken Johnson. Students were reminded to continue working on their Allison Prop Jet Engine Model kits to learn more about jet engine design and function. Rice, also a member of the Pine Bluff School Board and engineering coach, worked with students to complete their paper airplane design challenges. Students were tasked with designing and engineering a paper airplane for flight tests at The Generator. Student plane designs that traveled the farthest were awarded $25. Rice also presented Solvemoji Challenges to students in attendance and on Zoom for the opportunity to win $25 as motivation for their ability to use algebra and critical thinking skills to solve engineering puzzles and problems. Cash Challenges were won by Watson Chapel scholar Sinez Herring and Patrick Robinson Jr.
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