How to get a teen interested in rocketry?

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Sandy H.

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This topic shows up regularly on the Model Railroad forums.

They don't have any answers either.

I was torn with either of my smart @#$ responses and couldn't decide, so here are both, equally as helpful.

1: Why are the model railroad folks wanting to get teenagers interested in rocketry?

2: Tell the kid it is either rocketry or model railroading, his choice.

I did try to make a few possibly helpful ideas earlier, so hopefully this post at least is slightly funny.

Sandy.
 

Ez2cDave

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I was torn with either of my smart @#$ responses and couldn't decide, so here are both, equally as helpful.

1: Why are the model railroad folks wanting to get teenagers interested in rocketry?

2: Tell the kid it is either rocketry or model railroading, his choice.

I did try to make a few possibly helpful ideas earlier, so hopefully this post at least is slightly funny.

Sandy.
Simple answer . . . Cut off their phones & internet, until they submit to the "ghost of G. Harry Stine" . . . They may not be happy, building & flying rockets, but they will learn a valuable life lesson that "privileges come at a price" !

Dave F.
 

Retrospace101

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Here's a Primary Source, from myself, a Rocketeer (Under 18).

As a Junior Member, here's my experience:
Last year, when I started up my TARC Team for the first time, I could see that the current Demographic is sometimes hard to keep/retain participation in, when in Regards to Rocketry. Everyone was super excited initially, but then commitment started oscillating unhealthily. Things got real ugly over the winter when >70% of the team just "dipped" during important meetings and deadlines. Therefore, Its Imperative to retain interest, as well as gain interest.

I found that to run something like this, and attempt to retain interest:

A: Introduce new experiences, such as Rocket Launches, to them, and if possible, have it come from a person of their age. It will strike differently.

B: Sometimes it's best to let things go sometimes. If things aren't working out for a person, it's likely a phase. Students have to deal with Grades, Midterms, SATs, clubs, sports, and not to mention (in some cases) pressure from their families. These can all take a toll. It's best to just leave things the way they are and maybe reintroduce them later on. Forcing on it will only waste your time and others'. It also doesn't present a good example to those already interested (seeing it happen). So its OK to let others leave, so better furthering students who are still like Rocketry, as they'll likely take it far.

I also think electing younger people or giving Opportunities to them at Rocket Clubs (outside the Normal Competition zone) can help kindle interest for not just them, but others. Leadership positions can be enticing to many, and the experience it comes with helps for life, but when you arrive at a club, and find people your age flying and help run the club too, it'll make others more comfortable.

The First time I showed up to a Club Launch, I was amazed at the rockets, no doubt, but, I was also very anxious/nervous seeing an immense crowd for the first time, and given few were my age (I was 12 at the time with my parents, both of which were just as new to the hobby as I was) . It was sometimes hard to overcome this barrier, although eventually I became comfortable with it.
Anyways, that's a lot I wrote above, but, here's something we can do: When you find a new rocketeer, strike a conversation. Maybe tha'ts all they need.
 
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mtnmanak

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I am currently in possession of 3 x Teenagers. As many have noted, they were all super interested in rockets and always excited to go to launches, right up until about age 12. Then, not so much.

I tried to explain why going to rocket launches was so cool:

- We get to wake up super early and drive a long way!
- We get to go to remote areas with no facilities and no cell phone/internet coverage!
- In our area of the country, we get to enjoy one of two weather conditions: incredibly hot and humid or stupendously cold!
- You are guaranteed to get cold, wet, hot, tired, dirty, sunburned, frostbitten, etc!
- There will be a lot of bugs or ice/snow!
- It is a lot of work with a bunch of physical labor involved!
- It is a complicated hobby that requires you to use your brain and think through complex issues!
- Almost none of your friends will think this is a cool thing to do!
- 90% of the people at the launches are over the age of 30!
- There is a lot of work and clean up to do after we are "done"!
- We still have a 3 hour drive to get home!

After explaining all that to them, I am still trying to figure out why they don't want to go...
 
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Teenagers are old enough that you need to engage them and try to find out what their interests are. For example, my wife is interested in exactly one area of rocketry--finding the rocket after touchdown. So the first step would be to talk to the teen and ask what (if anything) in rocketry they're interested in. If it's nothing, it's probably not worth forcing the issue. That's the path toward hurt feelings.

If it was me and I'd dragged the teen to the launch, I'd probably at least ask that they help with recovery and maybe taking pictures at the pad rather than just sitting in the car.
You've got a teenage wife?
 

Antares JS

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"Back in the day" ( 1970's - 1980's ) cars were integral to attracting girls ( in South Florida, at least ). I used to drag race and do a LOT of street racing and that "bad boy" image worked wonders. Of course, I wasn't trying to attract "church girls" . . . LOL !

Girls, back then, tended to view Rocketeers, as "Geeks", "Nerds", and/or "Eggheads", so Rocketry was not the primary focus !

Dave F.
The kind of girl who saw me as a dweeb for preferring rockets to cars would be someone I wouldn't want anything to do with anyway.

- Almost none of your friends will think this is a cool thing to do!
Ah, yes, caring-what-other-people-thinkitis. An affliction that affects far too many people, especially teenagers.

Sticking with what I enjoyed through high school and college paid massive dividends in my adult life. Some employers will absolutely be impressed if you mention an HPR certification on your resume; my last three employers all brought it up in the interview, and several of my current co-workers were sufficiently impressed with my hobby to show up to watch my level three certification flight.

HIGH SCHOOL IS TEMPORARY is something I'm thankful to have figured out early on, and it's something I hope to be able to impress on my own kids.
 

boatgeek

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You've got a teenage wife?
Well, THAT was poorly written in my part. 😀 There was a segue there in my mind, just not on paper.
HIGH SCHOOL IS TEMPORARY is something I'm thankful to have figured out early on, and it's something I hope to be able to impress on my own kids.
The people for whom high school was the best years of their lives tend to live a pretty sad adult life.
 

Peartree

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I was torn with either of my smart @#$ responses and couldn't decide, so here are both, equally as helpful.

1: Why are the model railroad folks wanting to get teenagers interested in rocketry?

2: Tell the kid it is either rocketry or model railroading, his choice.

I did try to make a few possibly helpful ideas earlier, so hopefully this post at least is slightly funny.

Sandy.
Both are available merit badges for Scouts BSA. I am a merit badge counselor for both and regularly attend scout meetings so that I might occasionally promote them. It isn't much, but we can all do something.
 

PDawg

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I gave up as a Teen, there were too many other things on my mind. After the 5th time an Igniter failed I lost interest as it became an expensive let down and my friends thought it was a silly waste of time and money. You can't force a teen to like anything, this is even more true now that they are Cell phone obsessed. I'm soo glad my childhood was Cell phone and Computer free.
 

boatgeek

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I keep trying to tell my three teenagers that you don't want to peak in high school--it gets so much better--but I don't think they believe me because, obviously, I'm not very cool.
As long as they figure it out eventually...
 

Bill S

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I can relate to the "my parents are sooo stupid and don't know anything" thing that teens do. :( I tell my 13-year old that while he thinks he knows everything and is immortal and nothing bad can happen to him, that I have 4x his life experience and if he's going to be stupid, its going to hurt. :)
 

jmasterj

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I can relate to the "my parents are sooo stupid and don't know anything" thing that teens do. :( I tell my 13-year old that while he thinks he knows everything and is immortal and nothing bad can happen to him, that I have 4x his life experience and if he's going to be stupid, its going to hurt. :)
I already to tell my 7-year-old that, lol.
 

Johnly

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Stop by a launch just in time for a large Skidmark lift-off.
Not a fan of them, but they are sonic and eye candy.
 

Peartree

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I keep trying to tell my three teenagers that you don't want to peak in high school--it gets so much better--but I don't think they believe me because, obviously, I'm not very cool.
One of my older brothers once explained to me that high school (actually k-12) isn't where you really learn, it's where you begin to learn the fundamentals of learning. College teaches you *how* to learn. Grad school is a test of how well you learn with direction. And a doctoral program is where you choose what *you* want to learn, learn it, then demonstrate (and teach) to others that you've learned something.

Of course, not everyone will go that route, but for everyone, k-12 is the foundation upon which we build our lives. It gives us the tools we need to communicate and learn so that we can decide what we will build. We can build in all sorts of directions but high school graduation isn't an end, it's just the celebration that the foundational slab of a new life has been poured. Slabs of concrete aren't very exciting. What's exciting is the wonder and the potential of what can be built upon them.

You can build a shack, a crack house, a church, a factory, a hospital, or a comfortable home.

It's your choice.

What will you build?
 

Bill S

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High School was a four-year primer on what Hell might be like.
It was a place I didn't want to be at, surrounded by people I didn't want to be with.
Which sounds a lot like a Federal Prison.

Amen brother. I hated high school. I was a nerd, wasn't cool, had few friends, etc. Kind of worked out that way as an young adult too, unfortunately. Product of my upbringing I guess.
 

Williamhimka

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Instead of us trying to figure out teenagers, wouldn't it be better to ask the teenagers that are involved, what it is they like and then promote those aspects back to the other teenagers.
Ask all you want! Haha i’m 14. I’ve been into this insane hobby for 3 1/2ish years. I’m hooked honestly. We’ve had a ton of things go wrong and LOTS of things go flawlessly. Stuff happens. And it happens to the best of us. The Tripoli Mentoring Program is the way to go in my opinion if you are close to my age. My dad is L2 and even that was a stretch getting him to fly a J motor. I’m now capable of flying up to L motors which i’m perfectly happy with. The biggest i’ve flown (at the moment) was a 75/2560 K560 load in my wm motoreater98 to about 7,300ft. Redundant systems and everything. I have a Dr. Rocket 75/5120 case i’m hoping to stuff a CTI L1395 BS in for next month to break my personal altitude record and jump to 15k. Should be exciting. But my point is, If i can do it, lots of others my age can aswell. Not everyone my age is into it and i’ve learned that over the years. I don’t think forcing the hobby on anyone is necessary. It’s supposed to be fun. Anyways in rocketry there’s a HUGE variety of things there are to do and have fun with. Some people like the estes kits and put insane amounts of time into them and they look amazing. Some people like just painting them or building etc. You get my point haha. There’s lots of cool things you can do. Everyone is different. I like anything from an estes luna bug to however big a rocket you can think of. I find it amazing. I’m done ranting now so ask questions if you want haha!

William
 

Alan15578

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Ask all you want! Haha i’m 14. I’ve been into this insane hobby for 3 1/2ish years. I’m hooked honestly. We’ve had a ton of things go wrong and LOTS of things go flawlessly. Stuff happens. And it happens to the best of us. The Tripoli Mentoring Program is the way to go in my opinion if you are close to my age. My dad is L2 and even that was a stretch getting him to fly a J motor. I’m now capable of flying up to L motors which i’m perfectly happy with. The biggest i’ve flown (at the moment) was a 75/2560 K560 load in my wm motoreater98 to about 7,300ft. Redundant systems and everything. I have a Dr. Rocket 75/5120 case i’m hoping to stuff a CTI L1395 BS in for next month to break my personal altitude record and jump to 15k. Should be exciting. But my point is, If i can do it, lots of others my age can aswell. Not everyone my age is into it and i’ve learned that over the years. I don’t think forcing the hobby on anyone is necessary. It’s supposed to be fun. Anyways in rocketry there’s a HUGE variety of things there are to do and have fun with. Some people like the estes kits and put insane amounts of time into them and they look amazing. Some people like just painting them or building etc. You get my point haha. There’s lots of cool things you can do. Everyone is different. I like anything from an estes luna bug to however big a rocket you can think of. I find it amazing. I’m done ranting now so ask questions if you want haha!

William
Ks for kids. That might work once.
 

Williamhimka

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Ks for kids. That might work once.
Yes, not everyone my age can fly that large. You hopefully understood my point. I don’t encourage inexperienced kids to fly K and L motors. I’m just saying, you can reach any level. Just know what you are doing, how to do it, and have experience. There are many people such as your self that have greater knowledge than me. But i’d say i’m fairly decent at what I do haha.

William
 

smstachwick

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I was a pretty atypical kid. I didn’t handle consequences for breaking the rules well, so I did things by the book. Often stricter and more challenging than the book. I also hated getting hurt and I was pretty good at identifying what was and wasn’t safe. If the adults gave me a safety rule I’d follow it zealously, even to the point of trying to police the other kids for their own infractions. This did not make me popular, as you might imagine.

I also had a mind for the analytical and an intense curiosity, at least in the objective worlds of STEM fields. Those are common characteristics in autistic people such as myself. Behaviors and fields of study that line up with rigid, binary and rules-based thinking.

I believe it was those factors that hooked me on model rocketry from the get-go. It was helpful that my dad was involved and provided the first spark, but he made it clear that it was my hobby that he was supporting, and not me supporting his. He was also gracious in allowing me some RSO authority when we prepared our rockets. He’s a guy and he likes objects of power, so pyrotechnics and subtly pushing the boundaries of the rules are exciting to him, but he was wise enough to see the retention value of allowing me that position of leadership and encouraging me to be decisive and firm in my decision-making.

We stopped going to the range around 2009 or so when my academic, social, and behavioral difficulties became too severe to allow it. I picked up the hobby again last year in my adulthood after gaining more confidence, social connections, resources, and independence. I hope to bring him out to the range again next season.

He’s been pretty reluctant to go though, reluctant to do much of anything together as a matter of fact. He’s very surly and distant in general, sucked into the network systems he’s charged with debugging in his job. Maybe I could start a new thread on how to get a 60-year-old interested in anything?
 

OverTheTop

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He’s been pretty reluctant to go though, reluctant to do much of anything together as a matter of fact. He’s very surly and distant in general, sucked into the network systems he’s charged with debugging in his job. Maybe I could start a new thread on how to get a 60-year-old interested in anything?
I would really try to take him along. Attending a launch, and with his son, might be enough to lift him. Covid has caused a lot of mental health issues and people are disinclined to talk about it. I have been hit by depression and am just trying to make it through and out the other side. Not winning yet, but not losing currently either. The scary thing is that I am the most sane person I know and it has got me.
 

LithosphereRocketry

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The single best thing to destroy a kid's interest in rocketry is to continue to try to get them into rocketry after they've declined.

This isn't a joke, and it isn't a comment about how grrrrr the kids are so rebellious these days. Teenagers aren't stupid. The kid in question has recognized that you trying to get him into rocketry isn't generosity, it's selfishness. That's harsh, but it's true: you aren't doing this because you want him to have more fun, you're doing this because you want to have more fun yourself. He's tried it, he's not interested, and no further interrogation is needed.
 

smstachwick

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The single best thing to destroy a kid's interest in rocketry is to continue to try to get them into rocketry after they've declined.

This isn't a joke, and it isn't a comment about how grrrrr the kids are so rebellious these days. Teenagers aren't stupid. The kid in question has recognized that you trying to get him into rocketry isn't generosity, it's selfishness. That's harsh, but it's true: you aren't doing this because you want him to have more fun, you're doing this because you want to have more fun yourself. He's tried it, he's not interested, and no further interrogation is needed.
It should be noted that the OP was asking on behalf of another club member, but I’d agree with what’s presented here. It needed to be said.
 
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