BOZEMAN, Mont. — Kelsey Horn was thrilled when the replica she built of the Wright brothers' 1902 glider was recently installed in its permanent home in Bozeman High School's library.
Hanging from the ceiling, next to corner windows that look out on the Bridgers, the glider with a 12-foot wingspan almost appears to be flying over the mountains.
Horn, 19, now a college freshman studying mechanical engineering, built the glider while a Bozeman High senior in her favorite class, computer-aided design.
She said she hopes it will inspire other students and spark their imaginations.
"I'm really happy with it, it's a great experience," Horn said. "I really hope it will get more people interested in computer-aided design and engineering. And girls — it shows girls can do anything guys can do."
Only two months of school were left last spring and most students were suffering "senioritis," when teacher Glenn Bradbury suggested a project using plans for the Wright brothers' glider.
"I was a little over-enthusiastic about that class," Horn said. "It was a really big project. Usually whenever I tackle something, I won't stop until I do it."
She started with 19 pages of plans, drafted by the Wright brothers, who flew the glider 2,000 times as they learned how to keep the craft stable in the air. Its longest flight was 622 feet and lasted one minute 12 seconds. The glider made it possible for the brothers to build their first engine-powered flyer in 1903.
Horn found the glider plans very vague, with measurements missing. Undeterred, she went to work translating the designs on drafting paper into designs on the computer. Then she figured out a pattern or template for each piece needed to build the glider at three-eighths scale.
Finishing the computer work in two weeks, she moved on to actually building the glider. She used many materials the Wright brothers used — muslin fabric for the wings, poplar wood for the skeleton, cotton string to tie the structure together, shellac.
It took her about 300 hours. Horn would work on it for an hour before school, during lunch and study halls, and after school. By graduation, the skeleton was done, but not the skin and wiring.
Horn kept going over summer vacation. She said she learned a lot about how the Wright brothers hit problems and overcame them through trial and error. But one obstacle stumped her.
"I didn't know how to sew," she said.
So Bradbury asked his mother, Jeanne, to come up from Arroyo Grande, Calif., and tackle the sewing. Some 60 wooden ribs for the wings, for example, are set in individual pockets, and she had to figure out how to sew each one.
Finally in July the glider was finished. Horn wanted to try flying it off the school roof, but Bradbury nixed the idea, saying he didn't want to have to phone his mother to say it had crashed.
Horn rushed off to soccer training with the Eagles women's team at her new college, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
"I couldn't have done it without Mr. Bradbury's help," Horn said.
Principal Rob Watson and other administrators decided the best place to display the glider would be in the school library. Bradbury called it "wonderful, the perfect place."
The 35-pound glider was hung from the ceiling by volunteers from Dick Anderson Construction, which built the library. Supporting it is a metal cradle built by Midwest Welding.
"It really makes me happy," Horn said, to see the glider installed. "With mountains in the background, it gives a feeling like it's outside, flying."