Model racers

Baldwin Middle School students learn the basics of building and racing model cars and airplanes

BALDWIN — If you drop by after class at the Baldwin Middle School, don't be surprised to see a remote control car or airplane zip by. It's just the latest project by the Baldwin Community Schools Flyers Club.

The club teaches students in the middle school how to build, maintain and drive model cars or airplanes. It is led by Len Todd, who is also the president of the Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association, the adult group which builds models and races them down at the Baldwin Airport. He and his fellow volunteers work hard to teach the students the basics of this rare but fascinating hobby.

"We're working with the kids to learn driving skills and teaching them how it all works," said Todd. "We have about six cars and four or five planes for them to use. There's a track out at the airport and some simulators so they can learn how to fly."

Todd and the other leaders teach the kids how to build the models, help them put them together, provide them with simulators, and then take them out to the airport to race their creations.

"We have a lot of fun," said club member Heather Gardner. "It's really cool to race with something you worked on, and if you ever have trouble the volunteers will help you."

Todd said one of the key reasons in starting the club was trying to build up a base among the youth of Lake County, so they maybe could one day join the Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association.

"The secret to a club's longevity is youth," said Todd. "Once the school knew we were interested in working with some of the students, we worked out the details and started working with the kids in between school terms, and eventually after school."

Todd said in addition for being good for the club, it's a great activity for young people to take part in.

"We hope to interest them in technical careers down the road," he explained. "This teaches them a lot of mechanical and hands-on skills they can use for a good career. One kid even told me he wants to be an aeronautic engineer."

Fellow group leader Mac McClellan couldn't agree more.

"We take them out to drive or fly, but we're also showing them some electronics and mechanics and basically teaching them how things work," he said.

The students have taken an enthusiastic interest in the group, and agree this is a good way to gain skills while having fun.

"It's really fun," said club member Comeela Shepherd. "You can do what you want so long as you follow the rules. You're having fun with the cars but you're also learning."