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Scouts learn science lessons at Airfest

ROMEOVILLE – Pack 61 Bear Scout Griffin Garrett from Lockport constructed a rocket only using a small water bottle, construction paper and tape Saturday morning at the first Scout Airfest at Lewis University.

After he was done, he tested the rocket outside, where it spun six feet in the air before crashing down.

"When you mix the [Alka-Seltzer] tablets with the water inside, it pushes the rocket up," Griffin said about what he learned in the experiment, adding that he put extra tape so the paper wouldn't get soggy from the blast-off.

Scouts of all ages learned science lessons at the Airfest through experiments like the Alka-Seltzer rocket, and through demonstrations 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, Griffin's father. "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 over 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," Nathan 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.

Martinez's son, 13-year-old Christian Martinez, was selected by the troop to represent them on the Discovery Flight, which allowed one scout from every troop to take a flight over the Joliet area. 

"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."

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.

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