March 12, 2004

Rodriguez named to Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame

by Erin K. Thompson

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Using his love of aviation to help children calculate math, science and physics principles is fun for Charles L. Rodriguez, an assistant professor in the aviation technologies program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

That approach is among the reasons why Rodriguez will be inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame April 14 in Peoria.

"I don't even have dreams this high," said Rodriguez. "To be grouped with those people is beyond my capacity to dream that high. It's quite an honor and certainly I'm grateful to the committee who made the selection for making this possible."

Rodriguez, 48, of Murphysboro, will be the youngest aviator to be inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1970, according to department chair, Michael T. Most.With the selection, Rodriguez joins ranks with other Illinois aviation pioneers such as Gene Siebert, a leader in the early development of the Southern Illinois Airport and SIUC's aviation programs; Octave Chanute, whose 1894 book, "Progress in Flying Machines," was a guide for early aviators, including the Wright brothers; and Merril C. Miegs, a Chicago newspaper publisher who was among those responsible for creation of Chicago's Miegs Field.

"SIUC aviation programs are among the most highly rated in the nation because of the outstanding scholarship, expertise, service and commitment of faculty members such as Dr. Rodriguez," said Paul D. Sarvela, the interim dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. "Considerably less weighty in light of his other accomplishments, but certainly noteworthy, is Dr. Rodriguez's superb remote piloting of the blimp that navigates the SIUC Arena during most Saluki basketball games."

In 2003 the National Congress on Aerospace Education named Rodriquez Educator of the Year. He also received the Ray Lein Award at the Sun'n Fun fly-in in Lakeland, Fla. The award goes to an outstanding educator who makes significant contributions to aviation. The annual Aerospace Educator's Workshop at the weeklong event provides educators from all grade levels and subject areas with aviation-related ideas and materials that can be integrated into the curriculum.

In 1995 Rodriguez received the Outstanding Educator of the Year by the Aviation Technician Education Council.

Rodriguez attends numerous educator workshops throughout the country sharing techniques for teaching science, math and physics using aviation examples. His demonstrations include hands-on visuals to show how drag is a factor in flight and how airplanes develop lift. Rodriguez uses the same demonstrations for youth groups, including 4-H clubs, scouting groups and community organizations.

"It's all a matter of science and sound aerodynamics. Even with young children who may not understand some of the science involved, they take away images they saw and don't forget those things," he said.

Rodriguez has made and distributed about 40 biplane-shaped laminated desks that are now in use in area classrooms. The top wing is the desk surface, and elementary and pre-school teachers often allow students to sit in them for exhibiting top classroom performance and good behavior.

Rodriguez believes it is important to remind students to work hard and set sights in pursuing goals.

"All of us in our different positions need to be aware of the impact we can have," he said.

But Rodriguez's work isn't limited to furthering aviation through education. Last month, Rodriguez was presented the Flight Standards Service "Good Friend," award by the Federal Aviation Administration for his contributions to the agency in the area of aviation accident investigations. The award is presented to non-FAA flight standards personnel who significantly promote, enhance or support the agency's mission.

Rodriguez received his associate, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees at SIUC in 1977, 1978, 1987, and 1997, respectively. He is a 1973 graduate of Murphysboro High School.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame is comprised of about 30 organizations involved in aviation-related activities, and works in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Aeronautics, according to board member Ronald D. Kelly of De Soto. Kelly is a form