by Greg Kochersperger
“Wow, very impressed,” is the only way I can sum up My experience with my 7-year-old at EEA KidVenture at AirVenture this year. Kudos to all involved, particularly the numerous volunteers that made such a special time for my boy. We arrived right when they opened and spent the next four hours working on various activities, each one growing the perpetual smile on his face.
We ran into an experienced KidVenture dad and his two daughters in line prior to opening, and he suggested we hit the wing rib construction station first as it takes a while and tends to back up. We took his tip and started there as the first customer of the week with a volunteer that was very patient with my son as he tried to solve the puzzle of which of the precut wooden rib piece fit where on the jig. Once the pieces were aligned in the correct place a generous glob of glue and a gusset plate with staples was applied to each joint. The final product looked pretty good – definitely worthy of hanging in the shop.
Next station was the radio building, which I was personally most excited about. They had printed circuit boards and step by step assembly instructions where individual resistors and capacitors were added to the board to make a tunable FM radio receiver, including air bands. My son carefully inserted each component into the circuit board and proceeded to the solder station where a volunteer helped him make the connections to the board. The volunteer started with a demonstration of the technique and then allowed my son to feed the solder while the volunteer held the iron. He then very bravely let my son hold the iron while I assisted with feeding the solder. Hmm, my son can solder; this is actually a helpful skill. The finished radio was placed in a nice plastic box, complete with a battery and ear buds. Awesome!
On to the Boeing sponsored rocket building station. They were just making simple rockets out of construction paper tubes, so I didn’t think that much of it. He took the pre-made rocket body and made his own nose cone. Then haphazardly taped on some paper fins; I was skeptical of how well it would fly. There were many stickers and adornments available to decorate the rockets, but my son rightfully elected to skip those since “less weight always flies better,” he said. He took his rather austere rocket outside the hanger to an outdoor test launch location. The rocket was slid into a pneumatic PVC launcher that reminded of a potato canon, but with a precision fit 1/2” launch tube that fit perfectly within the rocket body. First try – range cleared, arm ignition, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, fire…the nose cone shot 50’ in the air and the rocket body didn’t move. I laughed as it reminded me of the early Mercury program blooper films where the rocket would simple fizzle out in the pad and then the escape parachute would blow out the top of the capsule. Some handy duct tape around the cone to body connection and we were back in business. Second launch – 3, 2, 1, success! I swear it went two hundred feet in the air, flying straight and true and then coming straight down like a lawn dart and burying itself an inch into the sod. It was amazing, and we were both smiling ear to ear. We watched three others launch their rockets with equal success, so it wasn’t a fluke; the rockets are a hit!
He proceeded to fly drones, build wooden models, flew a VR simulator, and even flew a control line model airplane. By the time I looked at my watch, it was 1pm. I can’t believe he lasted that long, and he was grinning for the rest of the day. He got so much swag, I had to recheck the W&B for the flight home. Great job EAA in putting this on! If you have kids or grandkids in the 5-12 range, I highly recommend checking it out. Block out at least half a day though.