It’s a playground for aspiring aviators this week at KidVenture.
Located at the Pioneer Airport across from the AirVenture Museum, KidVenture features interactive activities aimed at kids from ages 8-17.
“Our mission is to excite the next generation of young aviation enthusiasts with hands-on activities,” says Dan Majka, Chairman of KidVenture. “We have to excite the youth. I like to say, we have to ‘repopulate the species.’”
Majka started KidVenture in 1999 with 50 volunteers and expected 500 kids to show up. Instead, 2,000 young aviators heeded the call.
Now, the program has grown to include around 500 volunteers who put in 12,000 hours. The turn out last year? About 20,000 kids.
At the Young Eagles Flight education area, kids can practice everything essential to flying a plane. As they work at each booth in the hangar, they learn about navigation, weather, regulations and other important components of flight. Then, kids put the information into practice with 20 minutes of loggable flight simulator practice with a certified flight instructor. As they work, they will receive a punch on their work card. Kids with eight punches on the card will receive a toolkit.
Owen Steig, 10, from Illinios, has been coming to Oshkosh since he was 1 year old.
He says he likes the rivet activity and the aerospace system booths.
“I’ve learned more about airplanes and how they work and how to build one,” says Steig.
James Millson, 10, has been coming from Ontario every year since he was 1. On his wrist, he wears last year’s Oshkosh admissions bracelet.
Last month, he traveled to Poland to participate in the world championships for indoor aerobatic model aircraft.
Millson says KidVenture is fun. “You get to do a lot of stuff.”
In the future, he hopes to become a fighter pilot and fly unmanned aircraft.
Also at KidVenture, kids can learn about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field in an atypical setting. Parked outside one of the hangars is the Dream Flight USA bus. It’s a “mobile classroom” aimed at kids in grades 4-7, says Nick Ryan, whose wife Sharon began the program 12 years ago. Aboard, different stations teach kids about gravity and solar energy among other topics.
“The kids don’t care if it’s a mobile classroom, their eyes just light up,” says Ryan.
KidVenture has really left a legacy.
Jan Stadt, co-chair of KidVenture, says she knows people who volunteer now who came here as children.
“It’s educational and hands-on,” she says.
KidVenture is open through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shuttles run throughout the day between the Bus Park and Museum.