Criteria for the Spirit of Flight Award

  • Awarded annually to an organization that has made a substantial contribution to aviation in Illinois.

  • The organization's activities must be Illinois based and continuous over a long period of time.

  • The organization's member activities must be above and beyond that of normal paid employment and exhibit a high degree of excellence in their accomplishment.

Significance of the Spirit of Flight Award

Election to the Illinois Aviation Hall Of Fame is the highest honor that can be attained by people whose principal aviation activity and Experience is Illinois based. It is awarded to people of good character for their excellence over a period of time. All of those selected have participated in community service, which reflects the character that earns IAHF honors.

2012 Recipient:
Challenger Learning Center of Woodstock

On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of the space shuttle Challenger set out on a mission to broaden educational horizons and promote the advance of scientific knowledge. In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, still grieving from loss, but firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission.

Perhaps at no other time in our nation’s history has the need for continuing excellence in education been as essential. A recent Gallup survey found that Americans overwhelmingly recognize the critical role science and technology play in our national security. And NASA has begun preparations for its ambitious return to manned missions to the Moon and possibly beyond.

However, research indicates that the United States is losing its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation. The National Science Foundation finds that there is a decrease in the number of students enrolling in undergraduate and graduate studies in engineering, physical sciences, and mathematics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that 47 percent of twelfth graders scored “below basic” in science skills.

Throughout our history, Challenger Center has developed a kaleidoscope of education innovations that serve as a launch pad to learning. Innovative teacher training workshops give instructors a deeper understanding of how to teach the subjects of science and mathematics, as well as confidence that the programs they are using are content-rich and consistent with current scientific understanding.

The Challenger Learning Center at Woodstock, Illinois offers programs for elementary and middle school students that involve simulated space missions. Current missions include “Rendezvous with a Comet” and “Voyage to Mars.” Each mission involves several weeks of intensive classroom activities leading up to a field trip to the Challenger Learning Center. These activities are taught in an interactive manner that build students’ teamwork and social skills while teaching scientific techniques and principles. Northern Illinois schools completed 258 Challenger missions at the Woodstock learning center in the 2012-2013 school year, and 296 missions in the 2013-2014 school year!

During the school year, Challenger Learning Center offers a Family Science Nights series, where children and adults jointly work on model rocketry, designing and building robots, messy science and family missions. During the summer, the Challenger Learning Center offers summer camp programs for students from Kindergarten through 8th grade. More information on the Challenger Learning Center in Woodstock Illinois is available at

We salute the Challenger Learning Center of Woodstock for its achievements in providing scientific and mathematics education to the students of northern Illinois. Congratulations on receiving the 2014 Spirit of Flight Award.