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Calling all educators- classroom rocketry programs- share your experiences

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FROB

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I was thinking about this recently- I occasionally hear third or fourth hand about some of the great things people are doing with model rockets in our schools and how wonderful it is such a setting (or in cadet or scouts groups etc) to get young students excited about and involved with science. but I rarely get a chance to hear about such activities first hand - i know our vendors see more of that directly but I seldom get any hint of it in the online world or my local club.

I get the feeling there are a lot of unsung heroes out there patiently and quietly promoting our hobby with the next generation and putting it to good use in furthering academic goals and inspiring our youth to maybe become the next Neil Armstrong as Mars mission astronaut or payload specialist etc.
I'd really like to hear about it directly from those teachers and other dedicated folks in our communities doing this great work-
if you're in any way involved in promoting student rocketry activities in or outside the classroom It would be great to hear about it here.
Please take a minute to tell us about what you have been up to or to "out" one of these quiet heroes in our midst that we can then bug them until they speak up and take a bow.

Cheers
 

jflis

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Well, I'm not going to take a bow or anything. Just doing what I like to do. Also, I agree that everyone who teaches needs to tell their story here. If enough do, then more will follow.

I've been teaching rocketry in our local public schools since my son hit first grade. Throughout his (Joe) and Jen's school years I taught at all grade levels. Once I became a School Board member more folks found out about my rocketry and teaching and I was discovered by several local youth groups (Scouts (Boy, Girl, Cub, etc), 4-H, CAP, etc) as well as the town itself. That lead me to doing demo launches for the 4th of July, old home day and similar events in Merrimack and surrounding towns.

After I started FlisKits local educators and youth groups would contact me for kits and then move on to wanting someone to deliver the classes. Not long after that I was approached by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua (NH) and I started to teach rocketry with them at several area schools in different towns.

I now teach 8-12 different classes a week (2 of them rocketry) in 7-week sessions, throughout the school year. I also offer my services to schools and groups throughout New England which results in another 10-20 events a year.

It started out as something to do that I liked, my kids liked and it got me out of work for a day :) After many years of this a few select events took place that elevated it from "something that I like" to "something that I felt made a real difference" and I haven't looked back.

It is because of those events that I encourage everyone to teach and work with our youth. Even if you don't see the impact you are having, the impact is there nonetheless. Teach a child something. You'll remember the day fondly for a long time... ...the child will remember it for a lifetime.

Now, as a rocketry vendor, when I teach it IS work and each time I am reminded that I have the best job I could ever imagine.

Get out there. Take your passion and pass it on to others.

jim
 

JAL3

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I'll give this a try.

I'm the pastor of a small, semi-rural church that was on the verge of dying. We halted the decline and built a totally new campus. We just moved in last month. We have shiny facilities but I tried to explain we need programming as well, a wide variety of programming.

I came up with a program called "Hearts, Minds and Spirits". Its supposed to get a responsible person who is passionate about something to give 3 classes on the subject, whether its gardening, cooking, fossils or anything else and try to pass the love of the subject matter along to a selected audience. Being in a church setting, I have also set forth 3 Christian principles around which to design the individual classes but those are not needed for the wider concept.

I chose rocketry. I love messing with them and am excited by them. The three sessions will consist of:

1: Minds: God has given us minds to use with those minds incredible things have been done. Apollo 11 etc. The activities are 2 rocket builds. I'm planning of a Fliskits WHatchamacallit and an Art Applewhite Qubit.

2: Hearts: We express ouselves differently though our love of different activities and through creative media. This is the session where the kids (and adults?) get to decorate their projects and make them uniquely their own.

3: Spirits: We were not created to labor continuously and ARE allowed to pusue the things we love. THe third meeting is in conjunction with my local NAR section launch and the kids have the chance to launch their projects, see the work of other rocket enthusiasts, ask lots of questions and, hopefully, get excited.

I am calling my own version of the Hearts, Minds and Spirits program "Holy Smokes".

I am hoping, but not expecting, that there will be enough continuing interest to have a regular club meeting on the Saturday preceding our club launches to help kids with their own projects after the initial classes.

Other are planning other programs. The one I want to audit is being called "Burnt Offerings" and has to do with various BBQ techniques.

I'm trying to get Bea, a lady from my church, to do a series on baked goods and I promise to donate my efforts to quality control, if SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED will let me.:rolleyes:
 

n5wd

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Hi, all!

I teach at a high school in the metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth area near a little town called Justin, between Fort Worth and Denton. I teach engineering and multimedia to about 130 kids, total this year.

In the engineering class (which is really pre-engineering or engineering career investigation, depending on what we're studying at the time), we use rockets to demonstrate Newton's laws in action as well as getting the kids to do some higher-level thinking about forces, mass, and acceleration as well as projecting results and then building for a particular design.

We'll start the kids out with BT-50 sized simple rockets that they produce from scratch. After they've had a chance to put together something that may or may not fly stable, we'll introduce the concept of stability, Barrowman's equations, and RockSim to their portfolio. They'll actually fly two or three of their own design rockets, plus we use the Quest Courier which is normally a single egg payload carrier, with an altimeter to let them start figuring out (with Estes sighting guns and a little bit of geometry) how high their rockets fly.

In the 2010-2011 school year, our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academy will begin having juniors take the Aerospace Science and Engineering course - they'll be doing all I've mentioned above in the first semester, then in the second they'll be working to design a Level-2 type rocket that'll take a one-pound payload to 5,000+ feet. Several of the high schools in Texas are working on that curriculum now... you can see more info on the program by checking out the Systems Go website.

We have also had three TARC teams for two years, now... last year, we took one of our teams, a team made up of just girls, to the national finals where they wound up 32nd in the nation (out of about 700 teams)... top 5%.

But, don't put me in the hero column... that belongs to Jack and Suzy Sprague, our TARC team's mentors and members of DARS, the Dallas Area Rocket Society. They've put in at least every Monday during the school year so far this year and last, plus innumerable Saturdays and Sundays, plus they drove up to Manassas, VA, so we could have them carry our rocket and engines to the finals, and... I could go on forever. They're the real heros in this case!
 

danb

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Great topic!

My club, NARScout, has a program called "Constellation One". We have a dedicated classroom is Oberlin, Ohio with interactive displays, computer simulators, a real space shuttle cockpit simulator, and other fun stuff we used to teach rocketry and all things related to space science. We are very focused on teaching youth. Additionally, we travel to neighboring states for events.

Although I didn't want to post this yet, in 2010 our club will again lead the Space Exploration Merit Badge at the Boy Scout National Jamboree. We will again work with Estes Industries to provide a great opportunity for the scouts. We are looking for qualified leaders to join us. Please be aware that this is a serious commitment. Additionally, please expect a financial commitment of at least $500 to register for the two week event. You can expect to be visited by most of the 40,000 people in attendance and construct 3,000 rockets!

We are specifically looking for individuals that can teach the requirements of the merit badge in an exciting and fun method using great displays and props. Although we don’t add to the requirements, we also teach about the current space program including the Constellation program, the unmanned missions, and other interesting topics.

Please contact me directly at dbihary@hotmail.com for consideration
 

Pat_B

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We homeschool our kids and I used to teach a rocketry class as part of a teaching co-op. I had a beginner and advanced class. The advanced class was meant to get the kids involved in TARC, though I had problems getting enough kids who were interested.

Our kids are now in 4H and I've been doing build and launch sessions with their local group as part of the Aerospace unit. The county 4H leaders called me and asked if our Section could help out with county events. We now have an upcoming build session with a launch to be held a few days later and it's open to any kids in the entire county.

As a result of that contact, the 4H office asked if a few of us from our club could be the 4H judges for rocketry this year.

We're a newer club, and quite small, but we continuously get calls from nearby scouting groups who need to launch their rockets as part of their merit badge. Another guy in our club has some extensive experience in scouting and he's working on a statewide basis to have us volunteer at their statewide jamboree in conduct the build and launch sessions.

I'm personally interested in TARC, though most of the teams in our suburban area have long since had experienced mentors. Every year we send out a few flyers to local high schools in order to encourage the teachers to form a TARC team with us as the mentors.

We're a small club, but have a lot on our plate right now and it's really enjoyable doing the outreach to the kids.
 

Daddyisabar

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Just had my Baptism of Fire last night with my daughter's Second Grade Girl Scout Troop by holding a one hour rocket building session with two groups, each for 30 minutes. The Fliskits site was a real help as I could gage exactly what I could do in such a short time with no budget. For this first time I ended up using some old EX2 generic/Viking/Wizard kits let over in a box from an auction.

It was like herding cats at a Hannah Montana concert. Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise... and that was even before I opened the kits. The only way I could gain control was to be sillier than they were. Pretending to pull the shock cord elastic from my underpants did the trick. Other spur of the moment techniques included pointing out that the clay nozzle on the motor was like compressed kitty litter, and that the black powder in the engine expands from the size of a cricket to the size of an elephant in a second and all that thrust bursts out that little hole in the kitty litter nozzle.

Once they settled down I would get comments like "I launched rockets with my brother and the engines are ignited electrically." A great time to get in a smattering of Science before they all have to run to the window to watch the Boy Scouts having a tug of war. To get their attention back I pointed out the way to the Boy's hearts was to show them a really cool rocket, and that Girls could build better rockets than the silly Boy Scouts - a little competition never hurts. After showing them how to spread the yellow glue from the bottle with the "ducky" on it with their "pinky" finger, we finally got the kits assembled. With no time to paint they chose their colors from some sample rockets I brought - Hope I have enough Neon Pink.

Over all I had a great time but it was a very exhausting one hour. I really have to give a lot of credit to our teachers as having to teach these kids for more than four hours I would probably lead me to some sort of breakdown. But with battle hardened experience it will get easier. Next time I will be more experienced and have all the same kits. We will launch at their meeting in May.
 

JAL3

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I put together a promo video for the project I mentioned earlier in this thread. It can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23694991@N03/3350166821/

I'd invite any feedback.

FWIW, a Fliskits Whatchamacallit is one of the 2 rockets included in the program. THe other is an Art Applewhite freebie.
 

Daddyisabar

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Teaching my first rocketry class was a humbling experience, but in a good way. Actually, what I did was more of a craft project, where as teaching a real class requires more time and a lesson plan. But it did open my eyes as to the work and commitment required and the benefits derived. At our jobs we work hard for our money, so hard for the money, but we never get the good feelings buzz you can get by simply building and launching rockets with kids.

Like a job there is the hard work of organizing and managing the kids. If you are not committed to doing this then you are setting yourself and others up for disaster. Fortunately, my wife was helping out so some of my neophyte mistakes (i.e. the lack of the same kit for each participant) did not turn out too bad. I am looking forward to the launch and doing the same thing with my younger daughter‘s troop next year.

In the end it comes down to the cost-benefit analysis for each of us and in these recessionary and depressionary times it is very hard to get off the couch. However, if you don’t get off the couch the Blues they send to meet you will defeat you, so get out their and give something back. Rocketry is a great pathway for us old dudes.

As a father in my early forties it seems that a second childhood is inevitable, so why not do what I liked doing as a kid. Now, the fun of rocketry for me is building and launching with other “kids” – some of which are older than you would think. Nothing beats pulling out an Interceptor E and having the Cub Scout yell “AAAWWW Cool” and fall back on his behind. That rocket is fall down cool … I wish I could experience a fall down cool rocket but my behind is now farther off the ground and would have a much larger and painful impact with the ground. As an adult the vicarious experience will have to do

P.S. I am going to have to make the great leap into the 21st Century and learn these text message acronyms. I understand the ole tyme CATO, SNAFU and FUBAR, but what does ROTFLMAO mean? My daughter has taught me LOL and BFF, and I taught a Cub Scout that the USAAF I had on a rocket wasn’t a mistake of adding an extra A, that the Army did actually run the show until ’47. I getting sooooo old.
 

Pat_B

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One picture of about half of the 4H class I had. This family had a really nice setup in their basement for homeschooling.
 

RocketT.Coyote

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I had a lot of input in setting up and running the CAP model rocketry encampment for the Great Lakes Region. The fizzy rockets and junk rockets were a new item for the program over what was outlined in Sport Rocketry several years ago. The class size is small--usually about 8-10 cadets on average, although we had almost 20 enrolled two years ago. Everyone earns the CAP Model Rocketry Badge by the end of the week. We run the program concurrent with the basic CAP encampment and provide a demo to the other 200 CAP members during the week.
We have our own unit which forms up and marches to morning PT, Reville, the dining hall, etc. We are billeted separately from the other units too. A cadet in the basic encampment may earn a gold brick to carry for a day should he/she foul up, but we have the gold lawn dart.

We were using a Wile E. Coyote plushie for a mascot until Rocket T. Coyote was created in 2007. His likeness appears on all the course materials. Last year, he was brought to life as a full-size fursuit mascot and was a big hit as a morale booster and promoter of the program.

The only other program like this in CAP is held in CA at Edwards AFB, or so I've been told. Maybe they have a nice air-conditioned building to use as a shop and classroom too.

BuildingTime.jpg


LaunchDay.jpg
 

Pippen

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I'm not involved in any formal classes but every summer I set a big table up in the garage and invite the 4-H kids that we know (various clubs) to join us building. We usually have 8-10 kids in and out of here for a month, ranging from beginners to scratch builders. In May I'll start talking with the kids about what they're thinking and we'll start searching for cool kits. There usually are 60-70 rockets entered in our fair so the kids who are serious about winning or placing need to pick the right kit and even then they have their work cut out for them.

-I have all the first years do the same kit (Fliskits Thing-a-ma-jig). As Daddyisabar found out, it's a lot easier that way. :eek:

-I usually divide those doing Level 2 and 3 kits into girls and guys groups, both because it keeps the groups smaller and because my daughter at least has more fun with just the girlfriends. The girls also usually finish faster so we have time for more options--ie last year they sewed parachutes.

-I have one kiddo who always scratch builds and usually thinks up something that requires different tools and techniques (last year a water bottle rocket with foam core fins) so most of that has to happen at a seperate time. My oldest is also at a level where his rocket takes a lot more time.

-I've had kids coming for 5 summers now so the more experienced kids help the newer kids.

Yup, it's really crazy, not because it's a lot of kids but because they're mostly at different levels doing different kits. Very important: everyone starts off with a box to hold their kits. And last year I had my husband make a bunch of wooden bases to store individual rockets on. (When possible I do send their in-progress rockets home with them because I don't want to be responsible for a fair project damaged by a basketball flying through our garage.) Most of the time the kids do all of their building here, and then because I know the paint job is really important in a fair rocket, I handle it depending on what kind of help they have at home. I have everyone do one coat of primer here, often with a parent present the first time so they can see the technique. Most of the kids who build with us have at least one parent who is handy so they finish up painting at home. A few kids will come back for the whole paint job but it makes for a lot of trips back.

I don't do any formal rocketry "lessons" but I sneak in teaching whenever possible. (Shhhh....don't tell them. ;)) What I need to do more of is getting the kids out to launch. The fair has a big launch for all the kids at the end and that's a really good time.
 
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Peartree

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Pippen,

I am involved in scouting (boys) and am now "on record" as a merit badge counselor for the Space Exploration merit badge. No one builds rockets for our fair but we have a LOT of 4H clubs and activities. How would I make myself available for 4H related activities such as fair projects/merit badges/etc.?

I know a couple 4H leaders and at one of those has shown little interest. Perhaps because her club does mostly animal related projects?

It would be cool to get rockets into the fair although we have nowhere near the fairgrounds where we could have a launch. The track infield would be a *very* LPR launch.
 

Pippen

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John, if you can find a way to get to the kids or parents directly, that would be best. Parents would be thrilled to know there's help out there: I can't tell you how many times I've heard "We don't even know where to start."

One thing you might do is contact the leaders and offer to do a demonstration. The club my kids are in has one special guest, tour, or event each month during the regular meeting while other clubs do break-out special activities, which might loan itself to ie a Saturday morning launch.

If no one is building rockets yet, you the best way might be offering to be a fair superintendent for the aerospace area. That would open doors for you to help develop the area, hold build classes, advertise launches, etc.

The other thing I'd recommend is to get a flyer together and then make copies for the leader to send home with the kids. Be sure and include NAR membership info since there's a 4-H/NAR partnership already in place. You'd want to do that soon, since in our state at least kids have to sign up for their project areas by May 1 and can't add after that date.

Editted to add: if you can't find club leaders that are interested, call the extension office directly and talk to whoever oversees the 4-H groups and fair. They usually won't turn down able volunteers. :)
 
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Daddyisabar

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Launched and recovered all the Brownie's rockets as the wind gusts died down as the meeting started. Lots of excitement, screaming and fun. Two went on the roof but the janitors got them down and watched the rest of the launches from the roof. Hopefully these girls will get their Dads out to fly their rockets again.

Brownie Rocket Launch.jpg
 

Pippen

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Daddyisabar, those look great! The girls sure look proud. :)
 

jflis

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Now, isn't THAT picture perfect! :)

Bet they had a ball!

Bet YOU had a ball! :)
 

Larry Curcio

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Launched and recovered all the Brownie's rockets as the wind gusts died down as the meeting started. Lots of excitement, screaming and fun. Two went on the roof but the janitors got them down and watched the rest of the launches from the roof. Hopefully these girls will get their Dads out to fly their rockets again.
That's EXACTLY what we need: more of THAT!

Grow 'em from kids.

-LarryC
 

mjennings

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Awesome, bet the girls had fun. My dad and I did a tag team 2 night event with my niece's girl scout group (this was several years ago and there wasn't an opportunity to work flying in). My dad did a telescope / stargazing night. I came in and talked about rockets and space travel. I spent days trying to come up with a fun and effective way of demonstrating how hard it is to get to the moon. Finally I came up with having one girl be earth, and spin around, and have a second girl run around the earth girl. I gave earth a soft ball (spaceship) and told her she had to hit the moon with it. I thought no way she'll get it on the first try. But I was wrong, still illustrated the point fairly well though.
 

jorpet

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Wow, this is a timely subject for me and I appreciate everyone's comments on their experiences.

First, a little background since I am new here. I have just started (again) building rockets with my sons (8 and 13). Did this 5 or 6 years ago when the older one had a summer camp that built rockets at the Seattle Science Center, we managed to get out a time or two, but with a 2 year old along it was not a good thing, so we quite.

In February my younger son got a pre-built rocket and launcher as a gift, which got us started again. In the last two months we have built 12 additional rockets (with three more waiting in the wings). We now go fly rockets about every weekend that isn't raining (it is Seattle you know). We are having a blast.

One of the new rockets is one that my youngest built and he wanted to take it to school for show and tell. Since show and tell was going to be the last 20 minutes of a beautiful Friday afternoon I told my son that I would head to school and after he told them about making the rocket we could go out onto the playground and fire it off a time or two for the class. Well that was a major highlight of the day for everyone. All of the kids where so thrilled to see it go up.

Well, three of the boys in the class are also in my son's cub scout den which I lead. They all came over afterwords and suggested that we should build rockets as a cub scout project. So now my plan is to do that at the start of next year (too much left to do this year and only about 2 weeks of meetings to do it). So I am trying to figure out how and what I want to do with them. I plan on building the rockets over a 2-4 week period (one hour each week) and then launch them when we get a chance on a meeting night or a Saturday. These will be third graders next year so they should be well capable of building a level 1 rocket with some help.

I had been planning on getting the Estes Viking Explorer 12 pack since it allows many different fin configurations from the same model. That way each scout could build a unique rocket from the same kit. I am open to suggestions since people here have far more experience in this than I. Any and all feedback would be be appreciated.
 

jflis

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Had a nice visit with the Deerfield NH Cub Scouts. Each year they buy a variety of FlisKits for their pack. This year it was Rhino's, Triskelion's, Flea's, Overdrive's and D-Nelson Tomahawk's :) Here's a pic during my presentation. most of these kids remember the Decaffeinaltor from last year and were more interested in the Nantucket Sound :)

jorpet, I invite you to check out our Educational Bulk Pack page for information about our kits and our bulk pack program at FlisKits.

The Thing-a-ma-Jig and Whatchamacallit kits offer a fool proof balsa fin arrangement that you may like. The Rhino is a big kit (kids love that) with laser cut fins and so many fin options that you can have dozens if not hundreds of different fin arrangements.

If you see anything there of interest, drop me a line and let's talk.

Bottom line is, you will be glad you offered such a program. I promise you that :)

jim

DSC02881.JPG
 

jorpet

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After posting the last message I went back out to Fliskits to see if I had just missed packages on your site. Sure enough I found them under the education tab, hadn't thought to look there.

I like how you layout what can be covered in the training as well. I will definetly drop you a line, just trying to decide what is the best. I liked the watchamacallit, but think I might want something that will take a couple weeks to build and finish. I am leaning towards the Overdrive for the Bears (third graders) since that would take about 2-3 days to build and 1 to paint. Then a the launches could come weather permitting.

The Rhino and the Triskelion are both tempting as well. I may check with the leaders of the Tigers (2nd grade) and Webelos (4th and 5th grades) to see if they all want to do this project as well. If they do then we need far more rockets, obviously, as well as an array of types so the kids can pick appropriate one for their ability and attention span.

I will let you know in the next couple weeks. No major rush since I will be aiming for next September to do this. Still, will want to get them early so that I can build one and see how it flies so I can select appropriate engines for where we would launch.
 

Peartree

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I did Triskelions with our Webelos and Whachamacallits with the younger boys last fall. It's good that you can spread thing out over a few meetings. It took two to three hour long meetings to get the Webelos finished (in a group of six) but with the younger Webelos it only took 1.5 to 2 hours (but there were only two). Some of the Wolves and Tigers could not finish the Whachamacallit in an hour and a half but most did (they meet in the elementary school so we couldn't stop halfway and finish later). We sent them home to be painted/decorated.

********Important note***********

INSIST that each boy put his name on the rocket (and the nose cone if possible).

*********************

Our first year they all built identical Estes rockets and we had a dickens of a time knowing whose was whose.

Give yourself PLENTY of time on launch day. We've pushed our launches closer to dark than dusk and it gets REALLY hard to track them when the light starts to go. It also get far too easy for someone's rocket to get stepped on. At our last picnic we flew rockets from about 2pm until after 7 or 8. Everyone had plenty of time to fly what they wanted and had a LOT of fun. Being stressed and rushed and crowded takes the fun out of it for everyone.
 

Pippen

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I've done all of these Fliskits kits with kids in that age range and I'll second the suggestions of the Thingamajig, Watchamacallit, and Triskelion for first time kits. These kits all make attaching fins a lot easier than the traditional designs and when you're working with a group of first timers, you'll appreciate that. I'll be doing a 4-H group here in a few weeks and we'll be doing the Thing-a-ma-Jig.

The Thing-a-ma-Jig and Watchamacallit have instructions that were written specifically with kids in mind. Jim's sneaked some learning in there, but shhh...don't tell the kids! :D

Some of the Wolves and Tigers could not finish the Whachamacallit in an hour and a half but most did (they meet in the elementary school so we couldn't stop halfway and finish later). We sent them home to be painted/decorated.
One other thing worth mentioning is that the Watchamacallit has a streamer instead of a parachute. Parachute construction really slows kids down--count on at least 30 minutes just for that by the time you get all the kids through it.
 

jflis

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Certainly keep us posted on your efforts here. If you feel it would be helpful, contact me via email and we can get a kit or two in your hands so that you can evaluate them for your program.

We're here to help you be successful so do be shy :)

jim
 

jorpet

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Excellent comments all. Given John's and Lisa's comments I have decided to look at the Whatchamacallit and Triscillion. I still like the looks of the Overdrive and think it would be a hit with the kids as well. The Rhino, while very cool and I like the ability to customize the fins, might be a bit too much. We'll see.

So I just ordered one of each and my son and I will put them together and see how each one goes. I like ones with the T engines and Lisa's point about streamer vs. parachute assembly is worth considering as well.

I like to make the projects a bit of a stretch for the boys so that their parents have to help a bit. It seems the more challenging the project the more excited they are when they get it finished.
 

jorpet

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My rockets shipped on Thursday and showed up today. Will spend some time this weekend with my 8 year-old putting one or two together. Will let you know how it goes.

Super fast turn around on the order. This is going to be fun.

Jim, thanks for the offer of the test models, seems like you already do a lot for the kids as it is. This is something I can do, want to do and am happy to do. I will be paying for all of the rockets myself as well since some of the kids may or may not be able to afford them. So much easier to just supply them and not ask, that way everyone gets to play and I have the resources to do it.
 

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