City News

Gizmos that unite can be a big deal

Q: What do you get when you tie a rubber chicken to a parachute fashioned from a plastic bag?

Ammo for Michael Haun and Andrew Weiler's rocket-powered Rooster Booster, a contraption they fabricated out of an old water tank, bent steel, silver spray paint, some good old-fashioned elbow grease and their colorful imaginations.

Haun and Weiler of Forest Hill Church's The Big Deal took their show on the road in their 1950 Chevrolet truck on July 17 and 23. Their destination? SouthPark Swim and Tennis Club to visit rising kindergarteners through sixth-graders at Camp Kick it Up and Camp Extreme.

“The Big Deal is an over-the-top cross between Rube Goldberg, the Mousetrap game and (Discovery Channel's) MythBusters,” Haun said.

In addition to shooting rubber poultry out of their handmade Rooster Booster, the duo engaged the campers in creating H2Ono! Rockets out of two-liter bottles filled with water. The group launched their spray-painted creations with bicycle pumps. My 6-year-old son, Colin, thought it was “super cool” when one of the bottles hit a tree.

But seriously, what is The Big Deal? On Sundays at Forest Hill Church, Haun and Weiler go one step further and use their handmade contraptions to elicit discussion and bring families closer. Think “Tool Time” with a twist.

Weiler said, “The goal is to get parents and kids together talking about the same thing, the same truth, the same virtue from God's word.”

Haun, 54, the traffic reporter on Fox News Rising, created The Big Deal concept as a complement to Forest Hill's family ministries.

For the past 17 months, Haun has partnered with Weiler, 25, in “building contraptions that hold families together.”

“When Michael took on this project, I said, ‘Wow. I would love to be a part of that. I feel called to be a part of that.' When he pitched (The Big Deal) philosophy, it kind of hit on all the things I had been feeling,” Weiler said.

On their elaborate set, which they designed to look like a 1950s warehouse – complete with a 25-foot rusty water tower – they get families to work together. They build handmade contraptions out of recycled materials and launch moon pies across Forest Hill's former gymnasium, as they tell stories from the Bible and focus on a monthly virtue, such as friendship, honesty, compassion and self-control.

When they focused on honor, children used sling shots to aim powdered doughnuts at a 10-foot Goliath made from old armor. “How else could you get those kids to remember that story?” Haun said.

Weiler said, “The Big Deal really appeals to families and to dads, in particular, dads who are tinkerers.”

“Our job is to equip parents and empower them to help their kids understand through truth and virtue,” Haun said.