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Duct tape and trash bags give rise to hobby

A look at how (CAT Student) DJ Stickler creates small-scale hot air balloons from garbage bags and rolls of duct tape

Story and photo by Michael Clevenger, and reprinted from the Courier-Journal
DJ Stickler Photo

Deep in Fern Creek, the aluminum skin of a barn snaps and pops as it expands in the morning sun.

  Inside, DJ Stickler breaks the quiet as he pulls strips of duct tape from a roll, interrupting the sound of cicadas that populate the fields outside.

  Stickler, 23, uses panels of plastic cut from trash bags to create miniature hot-air balloons. This balloon, his 50th, is a multi-colored design joined together with rolls of equally colorful duct tape. And miniature is a relative term – this new balloon is about 15 feet tall and can carry almost eight pounds.

  Stickler, who has always had a fascination with flight, began making his low-buck hot-air creations nine years ago.

“I looked online and found remote-control hot air balloons but they were anywhere from several hundred dollars to $5,000,” said Stickler, who pulled another length of tape from a roll.

  Now a student at JCTC, Stickler remembers getting his first scale model hot-air balloon for Christmas years ago. It used a hair dryer to heat the air and made the balloon float. Soon after, he began experimenting with making his own balloons.

“I like the process because you learn different things along the way. You learn what to do and what not to do," said Stickler as he trimmed the plastic around a template, “but I also like the end result because I can see how far I’ve come.”

  Stickler’s creations use about 25 to 30 trash bags and six to eight rolls of duct tape and take about 10 hours. Some have taken much longer. One balloon took four months.  ​

“The hardest part is the time and the money,” he said.

His fascination with flight came at a young age. He recalls going to a balloon event and helping a crew inflate the balloon. The crew asked if he’d like to tag along and Stickler’s mom approved.

  “It was like time stood still,” he said, remembering what it was like to crew for the balloon. He can still remember the odor of the propane coming from the top of the balloon as it was deflating after landing behind GE. It’s a smell that stayed with him and is still a strong reminder of his urge to fly – something he's lucky enough to do. ​

About 10 years ago, he began crewing for Bill Smith, a balloon pilot he met at the Gaslight Festival.

  The more times that he came out the more that he taught me,” Stickler said. “He showed me how the burner went together, how to hook the balloon up. Pretty soon after he started giving me flying lessons.”

  He got his student pilot’s license at age 14. Since then, he’s gone through even more training and now has his private pilot’s license and is working toward his commercial pilot’s license.

  “It’s a totally different feeling when you’re up in the air flying,” Stickler said. “It’s kind of a sense of freedom.”

His commercial license will allow him to teach others to fly hot air balloons.

  “It’s kind of a big responsibility but it’s also real awesome because you get to share your knowledge with other people who are interested and get other people involved," he said.

Stickler recalled taking an older passenger up on one his flights and how the flight made the man feel like a little kid.

  “I realized that it’s not necessarily about the pilot and it’s not necessarily about you or the balloon,” Stickler said. “It’s about the experience that you’re giving someone else.”

See the story in video at the Courier-Journal.

Advising & registration for spring semester begins October 1st
by Terry Lutz, September 28, 2016

Be sure to schedule appointments with me as soon as possible. for advising and registration. Class spaces are limited nowadays so get in here quickly. Use the faculty page link to schedule an appointment with me so you are not left out in the cold when it comes to your classes.

  Just go to http://jctcart.com/faculty.html and click on "schedule an appointment" to book a time with me. It's that easy.


Student art contest offers $1000 cash award plus extras


Students at NISOD member colleges are invited to design the official Conference Program for NISOD’s 2018 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, the definitive gathering of community and technical college faculty, administrators, and staff seeking best and promising practices designed to improve student achievement.

  Only one (1) submission per NISOD member college is permitted so students must submit their designs before the final deadline in order for the college faculty to determine which design is submitted to NISOD for the competition.

  Interested students should contact Terry Lutz regarding how to participate in this contest. The deadline for the college submission is January 18, 2017.
  The winning student artist will receive: $1,000 USD. Plus, the winning artwork will serve as the front cover of the 2018 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence Conference Program. The winning student will receive five (5) poster size copies of the winning artwork. The winning student artist recognition and unveiling of the winning artwork will take place at the 2017 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence (May 27-30 in Austin, TX), which includes: Up to $400 USD towards travel to Austin, TX, Three (3) nights lodging, and One (1) complimentary conference registration.

The winning student’s college will also receive a complimentary membership for the next membership year. See all the rules here.


www.jctcart.com is your one stop shop for anything and everything


All the resources you need during your tenure here in the CAT program at JCTC are literally at your fingertips with the CAT website. Let us know if you have any suggesions for improvement. The site is for you. Use it.



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                                    –Jack London