Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Adventures in Learning Podcast -- Season 1, Episode 4
Host: Dr. Diane Special Guest: Wayne David Hubbard
Soar into a world where aviation, chess, and poetry combine! Meet Wayne David Hubbard, a true Renaissance man, and follow his adventure in learning from his first flight in middle school to helping thousands of kids discover a love of STEM. Link to full episode.
Adventures in Learning Podcast Show Notes for Episode 4: Fly High With Wayne David Hubbard For this set of show notes, I'm going to include the full transcript, as well as links to the books we discussed -- and a special section on meteorologist Archie Williams!
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[00:01] Dr Diane: Wonder, curiosity, connection. Where will your adventures take you? I'm Dr. Diane and thank you for joining me on today's episode of Adventures and Learning. Welcome to the adventures and learning, podcast. I am so excited to welcome David Hubbard to the show today. I've known David for many years now, through the chess club and through aviation clubs here in Winchester, but also through his new role as a poet. He's a little bit of a Renaissance man, and we're going to get to know him better now. So David, welcome to the show.
[00:37] David: Hi, Diane. Thank you so much for having me. So good to talk to you.
[00:40] Dr Diane: Well, I'm so glad you're here. So I'm going to open with a question that I ask everybody, which is what did you want to be when you were a kid and why?
[00:49] David: The first thing I wanted to be was a firefighter.
[00:52] Dr Diane: Me too.
[00:53] David: And I realized very quickly that I was terrified of fire. So that did not work. Next, I wanted to be a stockbroker. I had a classmate’s friend's father came to our classroom when I was in the fifth grade. He worked on Wall Street. And it all sounds fascinating, economics, and so I remember reading a lot about that and I thought that would be my path. Then in middle school, I got very interested in aviation. And I'm not exactly sure how airplanes flight really stood out to me. No one in my family flew. It was just something that really caught my attention. And I was able to be involved in a flight program for young people at an early age. And that really got me going. And I've been in aviation ever since.
[01:53] Dr Diane: So tell me about that very first flight. What was it like?
[01:57] David: The first flight that I had was incredible. And it was a really unique story. Word got around to family and friends that David wants to be a pilot. And I was probably maybe about 12, maybe 13 years old. The word got around the church that I grew up in and there was someone there that was a pilot. So one Sunday afternoon, my father, myself and this gentleman went to Lincoln Park Airport in New Jersey and we took off on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and headed east towards the Hudson River. And then we turned south and started flying along the Manhattan skyline. And I remember so vividly, so clearly turning my head left and looking to see that I was at eye level with the Twin Towers. And I thought, this is the most incredible thing ever. Do you mean you get to do this any time you want? And I just knew that aviation, it was it for me. I decided right then.
[03:05] Dr Diane: That's incredible. So did you grow up to be a pilot?
[03:10] David: Yes and no. I did continue in my aviation training through my years as a teenager. I went through every training module and requirement up to the final ride that you do to get your license with the flight inspector. So it was a bit of one of those things. Being young, I took a hard right turn and my path went in a different direction, but it still stayed close to aviation. But even as an adult, I've always been around pilots, always working with the pilot community. I've recently been back into ground school, starting the process again. So it's taking me a bit of a lengthy time, but I can still get up in the air when I choose to.
[04:02] Dr Diane: So what prompted that love of airplanes? Like, where there books that you read as a kid? Where there things that influenced you to want to follow the stars? What led to that?
[04:14] David: That's a great question. I grew up close to Newark Airport in East Orange, New Jersey. And back in the day, we didn’t have noise abatement procedures like you do today. The planes were noisy and they seemed to go right over the house. And I always remember when I was in the backyard playing baseball or basketball, I would always look up and wonder, where on earth are these planes coming from and where are they going to? And so it was definitely a lot of curiosity around flight itself that prompted me to just keep asking questions and just keep exploring. As far as books are concerned, one book that I really loved was The Way Things Work by David Macauley. And it was filled with illustrations of things like an alarm clock and watching the gears on the inside or maybe an escalator and seeing that inside view of all the pullies and the mechanics. And so I remember reading that book from cover to cover, back to front, and I always enjoy just knowing how things work, taking things apart, putting it back together again, or attempting to. And that's how it went for me.
[05:37] Dr Diane: So it sounds like nonfiction was something that you were really attracted to as a kid.
[05:42] David: Yes, I did read everything, fiction as well. In fact, there's another book that stood out to me. It's called the Hawaiian Computer Mystery. In fact, I still have this book. I have it right here, actually.
[05:56] Dr Diane: Oh, I love it.
[05:59] David: This book was published in 1985, and it’s a choose your own adventure book. And so the plot begins with you are a computer programmer gamer. You win this international competition to fly to Hawaii, Honolulu, and you're going to compete against some other top developers to get that big contract. But the moment that you land, a stranger comes up to you and says, hey, kid, we need some help with a totally different project. And then next thing, one thing leads to another, and then you're trying to escape a volcano about to blow, or you're jumping in a helicopter, or you're diving under the water. And there's about 30 different endings in this book, but I don't even feel like I've read them all. Actually, I still read the book even though it's been about 30 years.
NOTE: Some other wonderful "choose your own adventure books" that may connect with readers today include: Time Travel Inn (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Bart King and Endlessly Ever After: Pick YOUR Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings by Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat.
[06:53] Dr Diane: I love it, and I actually feel like you've done a little bit of that choose your own adventure in your lifetime. So that segues beautifully into my question about describe your adventures in learning, like what do you do today and how did you get there.
[07:06] David: Choose your own adventure, wow, that is a philosophy in and of itself. What I do now, I work for the Federal Aviation Administration at a facility called the Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center, where we essentially manage all the flights in the United States — United States airspace and in the United States. So a lot of the high altitude 10,000 ft and above, from coast to coast, and oceanic. We also do space operations, military, you name it, anything that flies. And I work with a team of traffic managers, air traffic controllers, engineers, you name it, to keep the system moving, keeping people moving from point A to point B. Often, especially this time of year being summer, there's thunderstorms. There's things that we need to avoid and route people around. So I'm deeply involved in making those plans and helping to facilitate the movement of aircraft.
[08:11] Dr Diane: So you said you made a hard right turn at 17 from wanting to fly a plane, and you're now working for the FAA in terms of directing them. Did you go directly or what happened to get you there?
[08:23] David: The path certainly was not linear, so I joined the Marine Corps versus going to the Air Force and Naval Academy, which was probably the expected move, and I wanted to do air traffic control. However, I ended up in avionics and then eventually ended up in meteorology as a technician working on Doppler radar, satellite receivers and communication networks, the whole nine. And the idea was we would take this advanced weather capability, go out into the middle of nowhere, and we would set up and be able to give weather info to the pilots, the ground units, and things of that nature. So it was an amazing experience that would serve me later. At the time, the Marine Corps would often send me to places that were hot and sunny, desert, 110 degrees in clear skies most of the days. So I wasn't really enthused about the meteorology and computer programming and things like that. So I got out of the Marine Corps in 2005 and decided to get back to air traffic control. I went to school at Vaughn College of Aeronautics near LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and I got a degree in airport management and also air traffic control. In 2008, I was hired by the FAA, moved to Virginia and started my career doing ATC.
[11:00] Dr Diane: So, welcome back. While we were on break, I was thinking about your connections to meteorology and wondering, do you know Archie Williams?
Archie Williams is best known for winning a gold medal in the 400-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as well as for serving as a meteorologist during World War II and the Korean War.
On August 7th, 1936, Archie Williams won Olympic gold in his 400 meter race in 46.5 seconds. Of the 18 African Americans competing for the U.S. in Hitler’s Berlin (the team included Jesse Owens and Mack Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s older brother), 14 medals were won — 8 of them gold! The visible success of Archie and other African American athletes at these games highlighted the racial discrimination they faced when they returned home. It was an important moment in U.S. history, as the Civil Rights Movement developed out of the Jim Crow era.
After returning from the Olympics, Archie completed a degree in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, then served as a flight instructor with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He worked alongside the nation’s first African American meteorologist in the military and the weather bureau, Captain Wallace Patillo Reed. As a meteorologist, his job included drawing weather maps, doing forecasts and teaching instruments to the Fighting 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. He continued to serve as an Army weather officer until 1964, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel. He then began a second career teaching math and computing at Sir Francis Drake High School. The school was renamed for Archie Williams in 2021. Learn more about Archie Williams and his incredible achievements.
Click through the gallery for an overview of the incredible life of Archie Williams. And follow Artist Mark Fiore for more at https://www.kqed.org/mark-fiore-drawn-to-the-bay
[11:26] David: No?
[12:45] Dr Diane: So I found this out when I was doing some research for a program I did for kids about weather a while back, and I thought this was just the coolest story. And why don't more people know about Archie Williams?
[13:22] David: Oh, wow. I didn't know about this gentleman that you mentioned, and I'm definitely going to read up a lot more about his life. Sounds like an incredible human being who just kept learning and kept doing…
[13:31] Dr Diane: Yeah I feel like there needs to be a book about him. Kids need to know about Archie Williams. This is the kind of history that I find super exciting, because these are the stories that didn't get told. But they're so valuable in understanding the way our country works, I think.
[13:48] David: Yeah. And also, like, the human spirit. I mean, to be an Olympian, that would be an achievement in and of itself, if nothing else.
[13:56] Dr Diane: And that team was stacked with some incredible human beings. Like Jackie Robinson's brother was on that team.
[14:03] David: I didn't know that.
[14:05] Dr Diane: And another man who went on to become a congressman. I mean, I read about this team and I thought, how is it that we don't know more about these other humans who were on that team with Jesse?
[14:16] David: It's like the first Dream Team, if you think about it.
[14:22] Dr Diane: So speaking of Dream Teams, I've had the honor of being able to watch you work with kids and adults over the last six or seven years. I've seen you run chess clubs at our libraries. I've seen you run chess club at the museum where I was. You even graciously came out for a Harry Potter day and played chess. I've seen you take kids and teach them all about airplanes and what you do as an FAA officer to sort of get them to understand that there are more careers in aviation than just being the one who's in the pilot seat. What motivates you in working with kids?
[15:03] David: That's an amazing question. The path was —I think we're going to say the word nonlinear quite a bit. Working with kids is not necessarily something I woke up one morning and said, “Oh, this is what I should be doing, the thing that I must be doing.” It definitely started with the chess club. And when I originally started with the chess club, I was thinking it would just be adults for a few years in the beginning. And there was one night, specifically after we had gotten a good rhythm with the chess club, where there was a young kid sitting at the table and he was ready to go, and he gave me this look like, are you just going to sit there or are you going to teach me? And I remember that being one moment where I started to step into this role of being more of a mentor and a coach.
And then before, you knew it, we were doing youth chess tournaments. I really enjoyed, of course, the game of chess, but also I didn't have a club when I was a kid. I learned through books and through computers. So being able to have a club experience and to facilitate that for others who wanted to learn was very meaningful.
Shortly after starting the chess club, I was able to connect with a friend who was in the flight training program that I grew up in and who is now the executive director. And he said, “Oh, we need to do a summer ACE camp, Aviation Career Education camp.” I said, “Well, I know some people, you know some people. Let's get together and see what happens.” And we put together a two week program of bringing kids to the airport. We went to LaGuardia. We went to Teterborough. We went to the research and development labs for the FAA, put them in full scale simulators. And many of the things were so cool to us as adults, we were jealous of the kids just because it was just a phenomenal experience. And the crowning moment of many of these aviation camps is that first flight or that flight experience. And to see kids get into the airplane, much like when I was a kid, and take that first flight, see the world from above, and come back down, and just like, the joy and the excitement, enthusiasm, really brought it around full circle for me. And that's when it really started to click. Okay, this is what this is about. Let's do more of this kind of engagement and give them that passion that I was so fortunate to give myself.
[17:46] Dr Diane: I think it is all about the connections. I remember seeing that passion when you brought together all of these experts at our local airport to give kids a one day taste of it. And even though they couldn't go up in the airplanes, they got to sit in them for just that brief moment. And I remember just seeing the faces on these kids who were like, this is incredible. And there were kids who hadn't thought about a career in aviation or maybe even a career in STEM before that. And so I think it was just a wonderful chance to open their eyes to another world.
[18:18] David: Yeah, it's all there at the local airport, too. That's really the gateway. And you mentioned Archie Williams sitting at the airport. There's an unwritten rule in the aviation community that a kid at the airport that sticks around long enough, a pilot's going to come around and say, “Hey, kid, you want to fly?” And so that's really where it's at. We're very fortunate in the Winchester area. It's a public airport. It's just like a park or anywhere else open to the public. And the aviation community is very welcoming to bring people into that space and to show them, hey, this is available just like anything else. Of course, there's processes and there's training, but it's right there. You don't really have to go that far.
[19:05] Dr Diane: That's awesome. So in terms of the chess club, how many kids have gone through that in the time that you've run it?
[19:13] David: That's a very good question. The first club we did was in 2013, and then before the Pandemic, we were doing two to three meetings a week at two libraries and then often working with another organization. We have a volunteer group going into schools, teaching, doing tournaments, the whole nine. So we're very active and took a team to the Virginia State Championship in Arlington for the first time, which was a lot of fun.
[19:49] Dr Diane: That's amazing
[19:51] David: Yeah. We were averaging about 30, 35, 40 people a meeting. I don't have an exact count, but it's definitely been thousands of people through the years. In the Winchester area. We would go out to Woodstock, we would go to Capon Bridge, anything to bring people together on chess. We are getting back to a normal schedule now, at least on Saturdays with the Bowman Library. We're very happy with it, and I think we're going to start ramping back up again.
[20:20] Dr Diane: Oh, that's wonderful. What is the best advice you would give to these kids if they're looking to enter the STEM field like you?
[20:29] David: The best advice that I could possibly think of is to follow your curiosity. The value of following your intuition and your curiosity, I think is the most important driver in this whole process of learning and discovery. It’s like a choosing your own adventure game. But also, I think, as an adult, we know somewhere deep down inside what that thing is that we are really passionate about, that thing that piques our interest, what stands out to us, and sometimes it stands out to us even before we have the language to really articulate what's going on here. And so what's always kind of worked for me is to take that step and just try to get a little bit closer to this thing that you want to learn. And always when you take the next step, the path opens a little bit more and you see a little bit more than you did before. So following your curiosity and just not being afraid to jump in and to explore is definitely a great way to go and you'll start to find that path as you go.
[22:47] Dr Diane: So welcome back. I'm so glad to be able to go into this next part of the conversation. We were talking about choosing your own adventure, and you've lately become a little bit of a renaissance man. You've got a book of poetry out, I think, and there's another one on the way, and I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about your poetry, maybe even read us one of your poems.
[23:36] David: Certainly, yes. The poetry is in a different pursuit, I would say, than aviation and technology, these other things that were definitely so prominent in my life. I think poetry is something that snuck up on me. It wasn't necessarily part of the plan. I began to write while I was a Marine in the desert, most likely Iraq, and sometimes having a lot of time on my hands. So I wasn't aware that I was writing poetry, and I was a little bit embarrassed that I was writing poetry. I had this kind of Marine persona. I was a rock climber, I wanted to fly. I'm just kind of a hard charger. And poetry was definitely like the opposite in my thinking.
However, I always enjoyed writing, journaling, and putting words together. And over the years I began to read more poetry, and slowly but surely it really grew on me. Fast forward to the pandemic in 2020, where we're definitely spending a lot of time at home. I had previously, in 2019, written a manuscript about the subject of homes. My first book is entitled Mobius: Meditations on Home. And the question I was trying to answer is how do you know when you are home? This is a question that was asked to me by a friend out of the blue a little bit, and it was a very profound question that I stumbled over trying to answer. So that summer of 2019, I took the question, wrote it at the top of my paper, and every night I tried to answer the question and what would come out was maybe a poem or maybe a short story about my life, about places that I’ve lived, where I've been ,and how do I define that. And so I find when I ask other people, how do you know where are you from? Some people say, oh, I grew up in California, but I don't consider it at home. Michigan is where I spent the most important years of my life, and that's always where I feel most connected. Or some people go straight to the emotional aspects of home, like wherever my family is or the people that I love, or home is where the heart is. All these aphorisms that we have given the question. But I needed to answer it my own way. I needed it to be in my own words. So when 2020 happened, I had this manuscript about home. Everyone was home, and then it was just like the perfect subject for the perfect moment.
The new book that I have coming out is a collection of poetry and it's entitled Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe. And it will be published by Atmosphere Press in 2022, in October. The themes of these poems, many of which are written over about a ten year period, are time, place and love. And also there is quite a bit of science woven into it as well. My head is always in the clouds. I'm always looking up to see what's going on. I love astronomy. I love the James Webb Telescope. We could talk about that for 45 minutes.
[27:16] Dr Diane: Absolutely.
[27:18] David: We couldn't even touch the beginning of how important and profound just the last month of research has been coming in. So exciting. But a lot of these poems took the shape of looking broader and beyond and references stars and dark matter and all these themes. So it all came together in a very interesting and fun way.
[27:42] Dr Diane: So it sounds like some of the love of science and the universe from your childhood has made its way into your poetry now.
[27:51] David: Yes, to me, I don't think over the years I realized that these ideas were so important to me. However, when I was able to step back and look at the collection, there's quite a bit going on here. So it's been a lot of fun.
[29:58] Dr Diane: So you've done it all. I mean, you've done aviation, you've done science, you've done STEM, you've done poetry. What are your top strategies for success?
[30:11] David: Wow. There's still a lot more than I would like to do. So much. There's only one lifetime. The things that I've found through the years that have helped me a lot are there's probably a three pronged approach. The first is look for patterns. I am very big on pattern recognition. I think this comes from several places. Definitely chess, where pattern recognition is a big part. Also in air traffic control. Over the years, I was an air traffic controller. Learning to spot problems and understanding when the picture looks right and when the picture is off is very key to responding and keeping things safe. And where that comes into play, especially when it relates to learning, is when we step outside of the box or we step outside of our comfort zone, trying new things, trying to start a new endeavor. One thing that I've learned to ask myself is, where have I seen this before? Where have I seen something similar? What experience do I have that I can draw on? So even though I'm in a completely different domain, a different context, there are certain elements that are familiar, and I learned to work with that. That really helps me through the ambiguity and start to build a path forward when I'm learning and trying new things. The second prong is to ask for help.
[31:44] Dr Diane: That's the hardest one.
[31:48] David: It gets me all the time, ask for help. Because what I've learned is no matter how many books I read about a topic or how much I can spend an hour Google searching anything, if I turn to the person to the right of me or left of me and say, okay, what do you think about this problem? Or what do you think about this subject? Almost every single time, they blow me away with a different perspective, an angle that I hadn't considered or they know a resource or they have an experience or connection that totally just takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. And so that's one thing that I wish I had learned to trust sooner. But asking for help is the way to go.
And the last thing that is also somewhat of a challenge, but it can be done, is to fail faster. I don't like failure. Yeah, no one likes going through the process of realizing that your magnificent plan is falling to pieces and there's nothing you can do about it. Well, I learned that failure isn't the end of the world. It's really not the end of anything. And what I mean by failing faster is to close the gap and convert those mistakes into learning moments as quickly as possible. That is really the key to setting a new course in a new direction and applying what you just learned. Immediately flipping it, putting into practice, and that really accelerates learning process and experience. For me, also, being an air traffic controller, this is a big one because the perception somewhat of a myth is that air traffic controllers are infallible that we never make mistakes. And of course, the stakes are really high when we do make a bad call. Really what air traffic controllers really do well is recognizing when something's not working and then changing the plan. We're having a plan and then having a plan B and a C and a D. So that when we get into the unknown and we're surprised by things, it's not a showstopper, we can adjust. And the difference between making a mistake, pausing and saying, oh my goodness, well now what do I do? And saying, oh, I made a mistake, I needed to go that way, makes all the difference, especially in our field. But it's a skill. It's a skill that can be used in any context. And so that's why that's what makes it so valuable.
[34:40] Dr Diane: Well, and I think that makes a lot of sense. I think when you and I were kids, failure was not recognized as being a positive thing at all. And I think that as kids are being exposed more to the engineering design process, they're being encouraged to make mistakes and to do exactly what you just said, to learn from those mistakes. So in the situation where you don't have hundreds of lives at stake, so it's a safe situation to learn how to make mistakes. But if you can learn that at eight or nine years old, think what a great human you're going to be at 20.
[35:16] David: Absolutely.
[35:17] Dr Diane: And there are so many wonderful books out there that are kind of all about what happens when you make mistakes. And I think that that really helps too. Off the top of my head, I was thinking about there's a book called Boxitechts, where these two girls are competing and they wind up totally not being able to work together. Each one wants to take the project their own way. Mistakes are made, but they learn from the mistakes. And while they don't win the grand prize, they get something better, which is learning how to collaborate the next time and how to fix what they messed up. There's another book called The Most Magnificent Thing where the inventor in that book thinks all the ideas are bad and then in the end comes up with one from the mistakes that solves the problem. And I see more and more of those kinds of books coming out for kids and I think that's a wonderful thing to model what failure can look like.
[36:13] David: Precisely. And that's reality too. That's the reality of science. The technological improvements and things that we enjoy on a daily basis did not start out that way. There's one iteration after another, iteration, one failure and improvement after another that has given us so many of these gifts that we enjoy on a daily basis.
[36:34] Dr Diane: Exactly. Often the things that we use now started as somebody's mistake. Check out Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super Soaking Stream of Inventions (Chris Barton/Don Tate) for a real-life picture book biography that provides some inspiration about persevering despite failure and challenges.
[38:13] Dr Diane: As you look towards the future, what makes you hopeful?
[38:21] David: Well, I find many reasons for hope, and I recognize that for some time now, we've been in very uncharted waters. The pace of technology is just relentless, and as many have predicted, it's just going to continue to accelerate. And both in society and technology and other domains, we're being challenged with a lot of questions, and it can definitely feel frightening and it can feel overwhelming at times. However, I really have a lot of confidence in human beings ability to figure it out and our spirit, like we talked about, Archie Williams, that's an example of a person who just there was no stopping him. The challenges were what they were, and yet it seems like he just was able to show up with his best self and make incredible things happen. And so what makes me excited about the future is not just the individual, one person moving forward with that. We're also able to connect with others who share that same outlook and that same hope. And so, although it seems like the challenges are coming faster and harder, I also feel like we're going to come together and find a way to make it work in ways that we have not thought of before. I think about that quite a bit.
[39:55] Dr Diane: David, thank you for sharing your hope with us today. If people want to get hold of your book or to contact you. What are the best ways to reach you?
[40:04] David: Well, thank you so much for having me today. The fastest way to get in touch with me is through my website. I have a website, waynedavidhubbard.com, and I have information there about my book. Also, I'm on social media @wdavidhubbard. Feel free to reach out to me there. And this fall I'll be doing a book launch at the Winchester Book Gallery on October 8. Also, I look forward to doing readings around Virginia and the DC area and maybe some other places as well. So I'm happy to connect with anyone that has interest in any of the topics that we talked about today.
Please visit www.drdianeadventures.com to learn more about how I help early childhood and elementary educators and librarians build connections between STEAM and multicultural picture books for engaged learning. Now booking keynotes, conference presentations, and professional development workshops for the 2022-23 school year.
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Welcome to the launch of a brand new adventure. In the spirit of building connections, we are going to be talking to a wide range of fascinating people this season. Each episode will explore adventures in learning from a unique perspective, plus feature interesting children's literature and picture books that will pair beautifully with STEM/STEAM challenges for engaged learning. Expect to hear from teachers, authors, STEM leaders, and more. There might even be a #bestdayever surprise or two in store.
*Bookshop.org Affiliate Program: I love sharing news about children's books, and helping families find great books for their kids. It is my passion, and I spend a great deal of time sharing my thoughts on my social media reels, blog, and podcast. I am a participant in Bookshop.org's affiliate program as a way to generate a small amount of income from my work. On each post, I also share links so families can find books at their public library and local bookstores. I also support my favorite independent bookstores, Winchester Book Gallery,Mahogany Books, and Books of Wonder, buying personal books there and sending locals to shop.