ROMEOVILLE – Channahon Troop 444 Boy Scout Christian Martinez flew with Scouts of other troops over the Joliet area, catching close, aerial glimpses of the Chicagoland Speedway and landmarks along the Des Plaines River.
Martinez was selected to represent his troop for the Discovery Flight at the Scout AirFest on Saturday, where Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs from several states learned about aviation and science.
“I’ve been in larger commercial airliners,” said Christian, who already had an interest in flying. “But this was small and low to the ground, so we got a better view. It reinforces my interest.”
Scouts of all ages at the AirFest learned about science, technology, engineering and math fields through demonstrations like the Discovery Flight, experiments and information stands placed throughout the university and Lewis University Airport.
Attractions included inside looks into modern and historic airplanes, tours of emergency vehicles, flaming hot air balloon burners and information on aviation and science-related fields.
“It’s a good thing for Scouts to go on and learn about science,” said Frank Garrett, whose son, Griffin, constructed a rocket only using a small water bottle, construction paper and tape, then tested it during AirFest, where it spun six feet in the air before crashing down. “STEM is the future.”
STEM, an acronym for the science, technology, engineering and math educational fields, was a priority when regional Scout leaders were organizing the AirFest the past two years.
Marc Ryan, the Scout executive for the regional Boy Scout organization Rainbow Council, said that the AirFest was important to keep Scouting relevant, but also to have Scouts “be prepared” for their future careers.
“One in four Scouts choose their career from exposure to something they experienced in Boy Scouts,” Ryan said.
Scouts came from several troops and packs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Peoria native Boy Scout Nathan Brose enjoyed checking out the booths and airplanes with members of his group, Troop 156.
“I’d say it’s been pretty good,” Brose said, comparing the AirFest to other Boy Scout events. “I hope they have this next year.”
Channahon Troop 444 Scout Leader Javier Martinez said the AirFest brought Scouts from several areas together. But it also gave the boys the opportunity to talk with aviation pilots.
“I heard a couple Scouts getting interested in learning how to fly now,” Martinez said.
Ryan said the AirFest was a collaborative effort by the Boy Scouts of America organizations and Lewis University. A VIP luncheon Saturday recognized the efforts of coordinators and school and scout leaders.
“If we can encourage the Scouts to follow their interest, it’s all worth it,” Ryan said.