All Articles Education Edtech Sell the finish line

Sell the finish line

3 min read


This post is sponsored by TCEA.


TCEA 2016 closing keynote speaker Captain Barrington Irving will inspire you to empower your students with technology and help shape the future of teaching and learning. Make plans to connect with your peers and other education technology leaders February 1-5, 2016 for a week of learning, networking, and discovery at TCEA 2016 Convention & Exposition.


Barrington Irving was 23 years old when he became the youngest pilot and the first African-American ever to fly solo around the world. When he landed in Miami after his record-breaking flight, he chose to use his experience to change the lives of others.

Through his non-profit, Experience Aviation, and his Flying Classroom project, Irving is bringing hands-on learning to students all over the country. His message to educators trying to encourage interest in STEM is simple and powerful: Sell the finish line.

“Kids are hungry to do something, but many are uninspired,” Irving contends, “They want to know ‘What will my future look like? What will my life look like?’ and they may not know about all the options open to them. Whether they end up being a pilot or selling drugs depends a lot on what they have seen.”

Irving’s own story illustrates the power of vision. His adventure began years ago when a man in uniform came into his parents’ store and asked him, “Have you ever thought about being a pilot?”

The thought had never before crossed the 15-year-old boy’s mind, but what an impact that chance meeting had on his life’s trajectory. He had two questions “How smart do you have to be to be a pilot?” and “How much money does a pilot make?”

More than answering those questions, that pilot sat Irving in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 and then paid for his first flight lesson. Irving could see the finish line.

Planes are not easy to come by, however, and the aspiring pilot had to focus on the finish line, making the grades and choices that would prepare him for flight. For years, he played a $40 flight simulator game to sharpen his skills and keep alive his dream of flying. He turned down several football scholarships, choosing instead to study aeronautical science at Florida Memorial University. He graduated magna cum laude.

At age 21, Irving set his sights on building a plane and flying solo around the globe. He spent more than two and a half years courting sponsors and donations before he got his first “yes.” Forty Miami-based businesses contributed to the project.

Irving now provides opportunities for kids to see applications for science and math through real-world adventures, like building airplanes and exploring the world via the Flying Classroom. He’ll be discussing his approach to encouraging interest in STEM subjects and selling the finish line to kids across the country at the upcoming TCEA 2016 Convention & Exposition in Austin, Texas on Friday, February 5.