Students at Edmondson-Westside High School in Baltimore expressed a need for a real-time motion simulator, having had a disappointing experience with the computer-based flight simulator game at their school.

Their teacher, Harry Preston, came up with a plan, and for that reason has received the top prize in the national 2012 ING Unsung Heroes awards program. As the first-place winner, selected from more than 1,300 applications, Preston will receive $25,000 to add to his initial $2,000 grant, bringing his grant total to $27,000 to help fund the “Fully Actuated Simulation Trainer,” or FAST, an award-winning program he implemented at the school.

ING U.S. is a financial services company and leading provider of retirement plans and programs for educators. Through this program, the company awards grants to educators throughout the U.S. for innovative teaching ideas.

“It is an extreme honor that Mr. Preston is receiving this marvelous award,” Edmondson-Westside Principal Karl E. Perry said in a statement. “We are elated to celebrate this accomplishment along with him as he represents the Edmondson-Westside High School family. This award will go a long way in allowing Mr. Preston to build the best engineering program in the country.”

The FAST is an actuated, six degrees of motion simulator. It was inspired by a student who recognized the disparities between their school and another area school that has a flight simulator. Although they were both given a computer-based flight simulator game, students claimed the experiences were not the same.

The three main functions of Preston’s program are to give underprivileged and underrepresented students a chance to participate in an ongoing design and advanced engineering project; to experience a fully actuated flight simulation experience; and to help students who suffer from numerous learning, emotional and physical disabilities.

Students in carpentry, introduction to engineering, principals of engineering, Air Force Junior ROTC, special education and life skills classes will all benefit from the program. Although the first-generation simulator has been built, it does not meet all the access needs for those in wheelchairs or with more significant motor-skill challenges. With the help of student-led design teams and input from special education instructors and engineering students, soon all students will have access to the same, full experience. Preston, who lives in Baltimore, hopes he and his students can create a FAST simulator that can give 360 degrees of motion on the pitch, roll and yaw.

With the funds from the award, Preston will purchase items needed to enhance the program such as a safety seat and clamps for persons with disabilities, a measurement device and software, and protective headwear, glasses and padding for students. These items will help students make precision movements and achieve the most accurate picture of the simulator results as well as extend the availability of the program beyond the school day. The grant will also provide the opportunity for more students to participate in the program by allowing the device to be moved to different locations for other student populations.

“ING U.S. is proud of the hard work and dedication of all of our nation’s teachers,” Maliz Beams, CEO of ING U.S. Retirement said in a statement. “It is a privilege to invest in the innovative ideas of educators across the U.S. who are preparing our children for the future. We hope the additional funds Harry Preston is awarded through ING Unsung Heroes will help sustain his ‘FAST’ program and continue to make an impact on the children in his community.”

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes website at More information about the program can also be found on the ING Unsung Heroes Facebook page at, where people can share the page to encourage more educators to apply. Applications for the 2013 ING Unsung Heroes awards are available on the website.