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The Future Of Model Rockets

Article by Paul Nortness

It's hard to ignore the truth. Hobby enthusiasts are a dying breed. I grew up in the late 70's/early 80's and building models, and launching rockets was cool. We didn't have all these crazy electronics to suck our brains out of our ear holes. So we sat down at the kitchen table and built a model of a fast car or a space ship or a fighter jet. Today, kids just turn on the TV and grab a controller and drive a fast car or fly a space ship or fighter jet so why waste time with smelly model glue?

During the spring of 2011, I wanted to find something my daughter and I could do together that would get us both out of the house and we could have fun. I wanted to get outside so something like bowling was out of the question. I was poking around the internet one night and stumbled across a YouTube video of Steve Eves' incredible 1:10th scale Saturn V model rocket and the idea hit me like a ton of bricks. We were going to fly model rockets! I showed my daughter the same video and told her that a normal person built that. Then we watched a couple other videos of small Estes rockets and she said she thought it was pretty cool. We built a couple of Estes E2X rockets and launched them and had a blast (Yes, that pun was intended). Then, another idea struck me. We have several kids in the neighborhood that are all about the same age as my daughter and they all hang out together. So, I talked to their parents and asked how they felt their kids would enjoy rocketry. The response was a resounding "They would love it!"

kids building model rockets

So I set forth to come up with a curriculum and we planned the first meeting of the Chestnut Glen High Flyers Club. I had the parents go purchase their kid's rocket prior to our first meeting. We sat down and discussed each part of a rocket and what they did and how they helped a rocket fly. To my surprise, the kids were enthralled with what they were learning. Finally, we spent the last hour of our first meeting building our rockets. Everyone had a great time and we all learned something. Then, a few weeks later we had a field trip and took our rockets and launched them. Seeing the looks on the kids' faces when the first rocket went up was the best. We spent last summer flying our rockets and meeting in my garage and learning all about rocketry. The best part was every parent emailed me and told me how happy they were the Xbox wasn't on all summer and how their child kept talking about rockets. Finally, at the end of summer we all went to the field. All the parents came and we had a picnic and made it a family affair. Then, after lunch each kid was given 20 minutes to complete 3 flights and answer three questions. Afterwards, I presented each kid a certificate showing they were now "Junior Rocket Men". Everyone was very stoked at that one. At our next meeting, I had each kid sit down with me at the computer and design their own rocket and sent them home with a parts list for their parents to order. We have just started flying those rockets and I am happy to say every one of them fly great. The kids are proud of the rockets they designed on their own and love flying them.

Now, I don't need to email parents when we will be having a meeting. The kids come to my door asking when we can go launch. They can't get enough. Through the simple act of sharing my hobby, I have given the kids on my street something to do that doesn't involve having their brains sucked out through their ear holes. I actually saw one of them in the hobby shop a few weeks ago buying rocket motors. Hobby enthusiasts are a dying breed not because kids of today aren't interested, but because the kids of today need to be shown how cool all this hobby stuff can be. So next time you go to the hobby shop, take your nephew with you and introduce him to your hobby. Next time you sit down to work on your masterpiece model, pull up a spare chair and let your son help. I bet you will be surprised with the response and you may just have a little hobby enthusiast on your hands!

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