CHARLOTTESVILLE — Officials with the Hancock County 4-H program are always looking for fun ways to get kids interested and keep them involved in 4-H activities.
Last year, organizers started a new program dealing with aviation that allowed youngsters to build model remote-controlled airplanes from scratch.
It was such a success that 4-H organizers brought it back for a second year, and Sugar Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Josh Weber is awfully glad they did.
He was the remote-controlled airplane 4-H grand champion last year in his age group and hopes to defend his title this summer. He’ll be competing in a new category for second-year participants who will make a more complicated, aerobatic remote-controlled plane.
“I really like making stuff,” Josh said.
Last year, he worked with his father, Chris Weber, to put the winning plane together. This year, his older brother, New Palestine High School sophomore Sam Weber, did much of the overseeing of Josh’s work.
While Sam never participated in 4-H activities, after seeing Josh succeed, he didn’t mind helping out this year.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s pretty cool,” Sam said as he prepared to watch Josh assemble his plane during a recent workshop at Eastern Hancock High School.
For Josh, winning the event last year was not only fun, it was also a great lesson in patience.
His mother, Deb Weber, said her husband repeatedly gave Josh instructions to take his time sanding the plane and to be extra careful putting together the complicated model.
When Josh was named the grand champion last year, it was a big surprise.
“There were just so many other people doing it,” Josh said.
Deb said it’s been a thrill to see her youngest son thrive in the various 4-H activities. Josh also participates in rifle and Lego 4-H competition.
“They (4-H officials) came to the school and handed out brochures and talked about all the projects,” she said. “When Josh heard about the planes, he came home and said, ‘I want to do this,’ and we said, ‘OK.’ ”
Everyone builds the same airplane from a kit, but to complete the project, the aircraft must have a successful maiden flight.
The planes are complex and even include electrical systems, which the 4-H youngsters have to carefully put together.
They had four workshops during which assistants were present to help in construction of the aircraft.
Participants will get to take their planes home after the fair. The young pilots tested their planes last weekend, and judging will be announced during the fair, which begins today.
“It’s a lengthy process for us and the airplane club that puts this together,” project superintendent Roy Wilson said.
The children sign up in February, and organizers then order the unassembled kits. The youngsters start putting them together in the months leading up to the fair.
Members of a local remote-control airplane club work with the participants to make sure they put the planes together properly.
The 4-H students then get to do the decorations on their own. Part of the judging measures the craftsmanship in the assembly and how they’re finished. But the biggest test comes when the planes take off and judges see how well they fly.