|Volunteer Britney Kent (in red on the right) and Alex King (in white on the right) assemble balsa wood airplanes in the arts and crafts tent at KidVenture. PHOTO BY AARON LURTH
|Volunteer John Thompson (right) shows Ervin Parivash the parts of the instrument panel on a poster. PHOTO BY AARON LURTH
It may be called KidVenture, but at a glance, you won’t be able to tell who is having more fun—the kids or the adults.
That’s because KidVenture has grown into an event that has something for all ages, with parents usually learning alongside their children.
“We’ve definitely gone to all ages and expanded in technology and sophistication,” said KidVenture Chairman Dan Majka.
Sponsored by United Technologies Corp., KidVenture features lots of flight simulators, the newest software, and lots of hands-on opportunities.
The move to create programs for older children came about because of need. “The kids who started coming here a few years ago were getting older, and we wanted something they could do now,” Majka said.
That doesn’t mean that they got rid of the popular programs for younger kids, such as pedal planes, balsa gliders, or cockpit climbs. But it does mean they have added programs that are appropriate for older kids, too.
For the A&P program, for example, kids can create a wind-powered turbine that will light a small bulb, rivet an AirVenture souvenir badge or work on the fuselage of an actual RV-12, carve a wooden propeller, create a composite helicopter blade, build a wooden rib, and more.
Children can even earn two hours of credit toward their A&P license by completing five of the eight stations. By completing seven of the eight stations, they also earn their own tool set.
Volunteer Daniel Wojdac, of Auburn, California, was volunteering in the powerplant station on Saturday. He said they teach kids to identify safety wires, discuss how a magneto works, and more. But they always adjust their lessons to the children’s ages and interest.
“The intensity level from the older kids has just been phenomenal,” Majka said. “Some of the older kids are literally spending the whole day here and are coming back year after year.”
If they’re not interested in the mechanical aspect of aviation, kids can actually get 15 minutes of time in their logbook—legal time, from a legal instructor and a legal simulator — by completing seven stations such as air traffic, flight training, navigation, weather and more, said Kay Nordbye, deputy supervisor for KidVenture. “It gives them a good idea what ground school is all about,” she said.
KidVenture also offers a passport that allows the fun to continue on the AirVenture grounds. Volunteer Beverly Nordwall, of Lakeland, Florida, said youth can travel the flightline—stopping at homebuilt, vintage, warbirds and other areas—to put a stamp in their Passport books. Then, when it’s filled, they can stop back at KidVenture to receive a medal.
“It’s fun, but it also allows them to learn,” said Nordwall, who volunteers with Chapter 272. “Some will come back with the back page even filled with autographs.”
In 2010, 420 volunteers spent 9,844 hours to put on KidVenture, Majka said. This year he expected the number of hours to be more than 10,000. Approximately 25,000 parents and children visit KidVenture each year.
In fact, some of volunteers first came here five or 10 years ago as guests. One of those volunteers is Maria Consbruce, 15, of Cincinnati, Ohio. “I love to help kids,” she said, “since KidVenture helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”
So what does he plan to do? Become a pilot, and perhaps fly cargo planes.
Annika Vanderwerf, 11, of Maple Grove, Minnesota, was working on A&P projects on Saturday. Her favorite so far? Assembling the air turbine or carving the propeller, she said. She said she liked that the activities were hands-on, and that you could earn a tool set.
Christian Durney, 14, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, said he came to KidVenture because he likes building things. “It’s fun,” he said, as he put the finishing touches on his air turbine. “It’s pretty cool here.”
Allie Fugle, 10, of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, said she really enjoyed riveting the name tag and was next going to try her hand at one of the simulators.
Julie Wainfan, 13, of Long Beach, California, said she comes to KidVenture every year. “I love learning about airplanes, and how to design and build airplanes,” she said. “I make ribs every year and hang them up at home. It’s just fun to come here and try different things.”
It’s the kids that keep all the KidVenture volunteers coming back each year.
“We just hope the experience here inspires or lights a spark,” Majka said. “You just never know how you can affect young people.”