WINDSOR, Conn., Sept. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- ING U.S., a financial services company and leading provider of retirement plans and programs for educators, announced today that Harry Preston, a teacher at Edmondson-Westside High School in Baltimore, has received the top prize in the national 2012 ING Unsung Heroes ® awards program. Through this program, ING U.S. awards grants to educators throughout the U.S. for innovative teaching ideas. As the first-place winner, selected from more than 1,300 applications, Preston will receive $25,000 to add to his initial $2,000 grant, bringing his grant total to $27,000 to help fund "Fully Actuated Simulation Trainer" (FAST), his award-winning program he is implementing at Edmondson-Westside High School.
"It is an extreme honor that Mr. Preston is receiving this marvelous award," said
Karl E. Perry, principal at Edmondson-Westside High School. "We are elated to celebrate this accomplishment along with him as he represents the Edmondson-Westside High School family. This award will go a long way in allowing Mr. Preston to build the best engineering program in the country."
FAST is Preston's winning project that will create a fully actuated, six degrees of motion simulator. It was inspired by a student who recognized the disparities between their school and another area school that has a flight simulator. Although they were given a computer-based flight simulator game, they claimed the experiences were not the same. The three main functions of Preston's program are to give underprivileged and underrepresented students a chance to participate in an ongoing design and advanced engineering project; experience a fully actuated flight simulation experience; and to help students who suffer from numerous learning, emotional and physical disabilities. Students in carpentry, introduction to engineering, principals of engineering, Air Force Junior ROTC, special education and life skills classes will all benefit from the program. Although the first-generation simulator has been built, it does not meet all of the access needs for those in wheelchairs or with more significant motor-skill challenges. With the help of student-led design teams and input from special education instructors and engineering students, soon all students will have access to the same, full experience. Preston, who lives in Baltimore, hopes he and his students can create a FAST simulator that can give 360 degrees of motion on the pitch, roll and yaw.
With the funds from the ING U.S. grant, Preston will purchase items needed to enhance the program such as a safety seat and clamps for persons with disabilities, a measurement device and software, and protective headwear, glasses and padding for students. These items will help students make precision movements and achieve the most accurate picture of the simulator results as well as extend the availability of the program beyond the school day. The grant will also provide the opportunity for more students to participate in the program by allowing the device to be moved to different locations for other student populations.