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The Star-Ledger


Children learn to design planes

Kids build balsa wood planes, then let them fly

Robert Penna has always loved planes and aviation, but last week the 7-year¬old finally got his chance to fly one of his own.

Robert was one of some 15 youngsters who at-tended Aviation Camp in Berkeley Heights, a pro-gram that teaches kids how to design and build their own planes. The campers flew their designs on the last day of camp.
The aircraft were only model-sized and made out of balsa wood, but Robert was nonetheless thrilled.
"I really liked it. My favorite part was making the plane," he said.
Robert's mother, Angela, said her son has always shown an interest in planes and thoroughly enjoyed the camp.
"He said it was really great," she said. "He's interested in that kind of stuff."

The camp was part of the Berkeley Heights Department of Recreation's summer programs. Lena Bendush, the department's program director, said the event previously had run as a successful after-school program at Columbia Middle School.|
"The kids seem to have a great time," she said. "The children learn to build balsa wood airplanes from scratch. They actually whittle them and sand them and design them from scratch and then, of course, they fly them."
The Hobby Quest, a company that provides lessons and activities in aviation to more than 140 New Jersey schools, brought its expertise and plane-building materials to the campers.
James Alaggio, district manager of the central New Jersey division of Hobby Quest, attended the event and taught the youngsters the basics of aviation while incorporating several other subjects as well.

"The greatest part behind our programs is they learn about physics, mathematics, history, a whole bunch just starting from this little airplane," he said.

Robert from Berkeley Heights learned how to make a plane from scratch from Alaggio.

"He showed us what to do and then we built it by ourselves and I had a lot of fun," he said.

Alaggio said Hobby Quest not only focuses on educating kids about planes, but strives to teach them communication skills and responsibility as well.

"Our whole goal is that the kids reach their maximum potentials," he said. "We want to open up their minds and imaginations."

Alaggio hopes that by educating children through hands-on activities in a comfortable atmosphere, they will continue to pursue studies in aviation or related fields.

"We really want this to be a career path or at least open their eyes to the future," he said. "We are trying to get the kids into more of a technical field and to see that science is all around them."

So far, Alaggio is confident that Hobby Quest is making an impression on youngsters.

"The children are much more capable than a lot of us think," Alaggio said. "We teach them in such a fun way that they don't realize they are learning."

On Top,Austin Lo, 8, checks out the aerodynamics and lift of his balsa wood plane during Aviation Camp held at the Berkeley Heights Community Center by the town's recreation department.


At left, Robert Penna, 7, flies his balsa wood plane with he p from James Aleggio of the Hobby Quest at the Aviation Camp in Berkeley Heights. At right, campers send their creations skyward. "My favorite part was making the plane," said Penna.