How does this progression sound for a club?

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Rev Lovejoy

Jul 13, 2009
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I just started a local rocket club from scratch. A couple kids had launched before, but most had not. The club meets in my church basement to build, and then launches at a member's farm/retreat center that was built for groups just like this, and offered to the community free of charge. It's a nice setup.

I should mention before I go on, that a requirement of my club is that all kids have to have an adult present. (One per family, not child). My reasons are hopefully self-evident, but in case not, I got into this to do something with my son from an early age. My daughter is into it too. But I couldn't imagine dropping them off at a model club without staying with them. This is intended as a community event that gives parents time to work with their kids, unlike watching them at soccer practice. The other main reason, is that I am no expert model builder, and could not supervise 10 or more builds at once even if I were. We had parents and grandparents out on launch day. It was great. (Of course, in hardship cases, I will amend the rules somewhat, but provide an adult mentor for a child who is in a special situation.)

Our first meeting, we made fliskit whatchamacalits. Jim was great about sending me a bulk pack on short notice, I had few firm commitments ahead of time. I had already done two whatcha's with my kids, so a dozen were involved in round one. We had a great first launch this Saturday morning, with a gorgeous sky.

They are chomping at the bit to do a second round, and I know at least 4-5 kids who didn't make it this time, who will be there next time. With a blurb in our small town paper, I expect a good 20 or so next time.

Here's my plan for the next couple months....

September: Quest Astra kit bulk pack of 25
Features a slot precut for fin placement, and parachute recovery.

October - Fliskits overdrive bulk pack
precut fins - traditional fin assembly - streamer recovery

Here's my logic - to start out, I wanted the whatchamacalit for a very easy build. Get their confidence off right away with a foolproof build and launch. Add a new skill next month, and one the next. Progressing from cut-slots to a traditional glue on fin. Also letting them do a parachute (I'm convinced kids love parachutes as much as rockets - my own do) but then let them see the streamer is still appropriate on the next smaller build.

Then, as the weather gets cold, we can start on a couple more time consuming projects, not launching until spring. Cut-your-own fins, maybe even getting into micro-maxx challenges.

At the same time, anyone who wants to get to the hobby shop and do something on their own is encouraged, and we want them to bring it all to club launch day. I mean, that's what comes to mind when I think of what a rocket club ought to look like. The group builds are a way to give guidance for those who want to participate, but need some direction.

Has anyone followed a similar model for an ongoing club? I know a lot of scout group builds tend to be a once-and-done thing, this is going to be an ongoing activity of mostly brand-new enthusiasts. Am I going about it the right way?
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Great idea. I think anything that keeps the kids out of trouble and focused on science and math is a good thing.

Next step is to add the math and science.
Yeah, teaching kids that even though math basically sucks after alg2 (lol easy stuff over)... it can still make for a darn useful tool for doing things that are a lot more interesting and fun to do. -- I think about cool stuff like intake harmonics, exhaust scavenging, suspension design, power bands, torque curves, and DIY functional (and self adjusting) aerodynamics in low budget grass roots race cars... and I suddenly don't have an issue learning the math involved.

Good call on being open to people doing their own things and showing it off. I think you'll find a lot more new / creative ideas get spread around your club a lot faster that way.
I have no experience setting up a club, but it certainly sounds like the way I would do it.

Good luck and keep us informed on how well it works.
The progression sounds good. What I like even more is that you are involving parents. I've worked with teenage boys in my church for 30 years. One of the more popular activities has been backpacking. Several years ago, I started reading books by John Eldridge and figured out why the boys liked the backpacking. Eldridge says that what boys need most is assurance that they have what it takes to be a man and that most of them do not get it from their fathers. (Too busy, just don't connect, whatever) That's what they were getting from going out in the woods. With that understanding, I started structuring activities as father-son as much as I could. The way you are doing the rocket club will have a similar impact. I've also done rockets with the boys off and on as the interest surfaced. I took one of the boys to NYPOWER in 2008 and he got hooked. Last year, the church sponsored a TARC team for the first time and they made the flyoffs. Needless to say, there is more interest this year.
Well done! Progression sounds good. The Blue Mountain Rocketeers has been running for 15 years in the same and like manner, progressing up to eventually becoming a NAR Section, and allowing the kids to run the club, with responsible adult supervision, of course. We realized that adult involvement was important early on. If the parents aren't involved, the kids aren't going to be. The parents are the one's that bring the kids to the launches, help build and fly the rockets, etc. If you can "hook" the parents early on as BAR's with model and mid-power (not sure of your field limitations) all the better!

Keep us informed of your efforts as time goes by!
You might want to have a simple contest or two--streamer duration perhaps? You do want to provide an alternative for those who aren't into more complex builds.
BTW, 4 out of my 12 initial rocketeers are girls. One of them is my own daughter. But I really agree that there is something special for boys and their dads with ventures like this. Where I live, hunting and fishing are a way of life for everyone but me it seems. (not opposed, just not my thing) I wanted Jack to have something that he did with Daddy. Olivia coming along is icing on the cake.
You're doing great. Talk about the different motor types and try different sizes as your field allows. Is there a NAR section near you with a launch that your kids could visit? If you've got a field to fly in, they might come to you! Maybe you want to build a club launch rack and your own firing system. Have a 'show and tell' at your meetings that all members can be in. When the kids want a big challenge, get into egglofting that will prime them up for doing TARC later. Plan your events and keep flying and you'll have a lot of kids coming to have fun.