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Holiday Workshop 'Aircraft' December 21st 2021

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Workshop objectives

  • To make Christmas Scenery to take home

  • To learn about Aircraft design and history

  • To build and ‘Fly’ our aircraft

This was a very successful workshop with a nice variety of activities, 10 children in attendance, a real mix of genders and ages ranging from 13 to 7 year olds as well as a Christmas scenery aspect.

Building on the success of the scenery making from our 'Tracked Vehicles' workshop in October, I decided to do Christmas scenery this time. Using the wood from an old bed

frame, I constructed 11 rectangular frames. This was to accommodate the modelling plaster and the backdrop to the Christmas scene.

I spent months planning for this workshop. Ever since the last workshop in October, I had had the idea of making a toy aircraft 'Fly' either by motorising an Airfix model and hanging it from string so it 'flies' in circles or some other idea.

EUREKA! I had my idea! I would try to do what I loved about a game from the 1970s 'Flight Deck' which involved a fishing wire, a plastic aircraft and a flight deck of an aircraft carrier...oh...and of course a joystick. So I enthusiastically trawled the internet for examples of 'Flight Deck'. Amazingly, a few even had posted YouTube videos of it in action landing on an aircraft carrier where an arrester cable that, if struck, would raise a pleasing flag either side of the deck. Better still, the 'Super Flight Deck' and even had a catapult to launch off the aircraft carrier.

Having decided on the idea, I enthusiastically went about buying Airfix Quickbuild aircraft of 1 to 72 scale to 'Fly' and hopefully land on my aircraft carrier. Luckily, our clearing out of a bedroom led to getting rid of an old bed frame. Although there were about a thousand stubborn staples holding the frame together, eventually, I had piles of useful wood. Most importantly, I had a 190cm by 90cm of hard board from the bottom of the bed frame which would be perfect to use as an aircraft carrier landing deck.

I painted the 'deck' and made an aircraft carrier 'Island' which made the carrier look more like a carrier and not a painted piece of hardboard.

Here it is on the deck of the aircraft carrier. Incidentally, the carrier is a 1 to 72 scale model of HMS Queen Elizabeth...well, the rear half. If I had done the whole carrier, it would be twice as long with two islands and I just didn't have the time or materials to make it. Just makes you realise how callosal this new carrier is. Apparently, she has 250,000 km of wiring and she's so big and automated, there isn't enough crew to clean her.

Weighing up management and logistics I decided to start the workshop off with making the Christmas Scenery. Having made a prototype of the scenery we were to create and having spent most of the workshop budget on miniature houses, trees and figurines the children were ready to have a go at making their own versions. Here we are busy at work making the

backdrop, stars, and sticking the lights to the back of the scenery.

Next, we mixed the modelling plaster and dolloped it into the frame putting lights under the houses, trees and figurines to give a magical feel to it. Here are some examples

The children were inspired by these and some decided they wanted to spend the afternoon continuing to decorate and touch up their creations. This is just what I was hoping for, as this gives them ideas and motivates them to try other new creations.

The afternoon was supposed to be started with a presentation about aircraft design but a technical hitch regarding internet and 'Keynote Speaker' software put an end to that. Instead, we got busy making our model QuickBuild Airfix aircraft.

Some found this very difficult. It became apparent that many had not had any experience with building. This is no bad thing, although it did make for a long session that dragged a little. However, I did have just enough time to set up the 'Flight Deck' pullies, joystick and aircraft carrier. We found that they aircraft needed to be very high in order for our rather poor pulley system to work. Here is a video of one of the few times it worked.

I wish I had had more time to practice setting up the 'Flight Deck' idea. It would have worked better with bigger pullies and easier movement of the pullies within the joystick. As it was, the stickiness of the pullies made the free movement slow and I had to get a huge height from start to landing on the deck, in order for any realistic looking flying and landing. Still, the children were getting more and more enthusiastic about the challenge of landing their aircraft onto the deck.

So the lessons from this workshop are:

  • Be ambitious with your ideas but don't expect everything to go according to plan.

  • Save your presentation to your computer not the iCloud so that you can present without the need for the internet.

  • Expect many not to have experience following instructions on building little model aircraft.

  • Never throw out old bedframes without seeing what you can save! The wood was amazingly useful. If I had bought it, it would have cost more than the workshop's financial return.

  • Find even better value figurines and houses in order to keep the costs down.

  • The Christmas scenery was a hit! More scenery making is a good idea for future Holiday workshops. Miniature worlds are inspirational for children.

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