old estes skill level code?

Doug Holverson

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What was the old Estes skill level color code back in the '60s and '70s when they had five skill levels and their kit-cards had a wedge motif and were black with one hand-cut spot-color?
 

Rob Campbell

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IIRC, Skill Level 1 was Yellow, Skill Level 3 was Blue, and Skill Level 4 was Green. I don't recall the color codes for 2 and 5.
 

Daddyisabar

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The lucky kids were in the club. It was like being a PFC, then to Corporal. Sargent, Tech Sargent, Master Sargent. More stripes, more rank! I convinced my parents if I could successfully build a skill level one kit then I could get a skill level two kit and so on. Hewlett Packard gave out the Alpha starter range box to the eight year olds for Christmas 1974. So I built the Alpha, DRM, and mini V2 in '75. Space shuttle in '76 and Saturn 1B in '77. Still have them and looking back I wish I could duplicate the patience, fine motor skills and eyesight I had back in the day. The 70's rocked! After building the vacuform space shuttle orbiter and the 1B escape tower, nothing seemed that hard.
 

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I spoke with Dane Boles about the Estes Skill Level program several years ago.
Dane worked at Estes when Skill Levels were introduced for the rocket kits.
He told me the whole Skill Level program was a marketing project.
The Apollo program was winding down and rocket sales were slowing down.
Hobby shops wanted something that would get people to buy and fly rockets more.
By creating a Skill Level program and encouraging rocketeers to to start with the 'easiest' kits and move up to the hardest ones to build that could result in more sales of hobby rocket products.
It must have worked because Estes is still doing it.
 

BEC

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I spoke with Dane Boles about the Estes Skill Level program several years ago.
Dane worked at Estes when Skill Levels were introduced for the rocket kits.
He told me the whole Skill Level program was a marketing project.
The Apollo program was winding down and rocket sales were slowing down.
Hobby shops wanted something that would get people to buy and fly rockets more.
By creating a Skill Level program and encouraging rocketeers to to start with the 'easiest' kits and move up to the hardest ones to build that could result in more sales of hobby rocket products.
It must have worked because Estes is still doing it.
…though they keep redefining it/reclassifying models.
 

smstachwick

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…though they keep redefining it/reclassifying models.
I agree that it would be more useful if it were more consistent, concrete, and sensible, although I suspect they’re in the middle of some expansion and rethinking some things right now. The website in particular seems to be in a transitional state.
 

caveduck

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I've also heard the Estes skill level origin story directly from Dane. It's a quirk of Estes practice since, with a couple of notable exceptions, most other surviving hobby kit manufacturers have only suggested ages, or no rating system at all.
  • ROKR no-glue laser wood kits - 6 star levels (!)
  • Revell plastic airplanes - 5 levels
  • SIG model airplanes - none
  • Guillow airplane kits - "age 14+" on everything
  • Tamiya plastic kits - none
  • Dumas RC boat kits - none (serious stuff)
  • RC4WD trucks - none
  • Model Shipways - "previous modeling experience helpful" :) (REALLY serious stuff)
  • Quest rockets - none
  • HangarOne RC aircraft kits - none
  • Campbell Scale Models wood structure kits - none
And I'd say that the highest Estes skill level would barely get you in the door on a Model Shipways kit.
 

Initiator001

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I've also heard the Estes skill level origin story directly from Dane. It's a quirk of Estes practice since, with a couple of notable exceptions, most other surviving hobby kit manufacturers have only suggested ages, or no rating system at all.
  • ROKR no-glue laser wood kits - 6 star levels (!)
  • Revell plastic airplanes - 5 levels
  • SIG model airplanes - none
  • Guillow airplane kits - "age 14+" on everything
  • Tamiya plastic kits - none
  • Dumas RC boat kits - none (serious stuff)
  • RC4WD trucks - none
  • Model Shipways - "previous modeling experience helpful" :) (REALLY serious stuff)
  • Quest rockets - none
  • HangarOne RC aircraft kits - none
  • Campbell Scale Models wood structure kits - none
And I'd say that the highest Estes skill level would barely get you in the door on a Model Shipways kit.
My current Quest catalog has Skill Levels on the rocket kits (Dane Boles works for Quest now). ;)
 

Kabulrocks

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Not long ago I did some investigation on the EAC requirements vs Estes catalog, and quickly realized it was a marketing scheme. To be fully level 5 Thrust-bar Red tabbed, you would have built and launched 19 rockets at specified skill levels and completed a special project with photography (Cineroc or Cameroc were available), or telemetry (also available from Estes). That works out to 34% of the entire Estes catalog for 1972, and 24% for 1973 an 74.
Having said that, I need one more Skill Level 5 kit build, probably the Saturn 1B, and a special project like the Estes Astrocam or the Estes Altimeter for my Red Thrust bar. :)
 

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cerving

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Didn't they used to have some kind of "master modeler" program that you could get a patch for if you built certain rockets? Building a launching a Saturn 1B with the 4 motor cluster, and getting it back in one piece should qualify it and of itself...
 

techrat

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All I can remember from the EAC was joining it as a kid, getting some stickers and the "Viper" model, which I flew once and probably lost, a couple of newsletters (which I still have, somehow!), but having moved so many times in my life, most of that stuff is long gone. I even used to have some of my old rockets, but I have a distinct memory of having thrown those out when I moved to my current location.... Wish I hadn't done that. It would have been cool to fly a 40+ year old rocket now.
 

Rob Campbell

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I was officially Level 2, but build enough to qualify for Level 4. I outgrew my original t-shirt, so I passed on getting the additional thrust bars. knew at age 13 this was a marketing ploy, It encouraged rocketeers to not only buy more rockets, but buy more complex (and expensive) kits. And, it allowed Estes to collect your personal information.
 

Woody's Workshop

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I was at level 3 when my T-shirt started looking like it went through a meteor shower. Thee most worn shirt of all time I would have to say.
Marketing scheme or not, it gave the feeling of power to the youth and a sense of pride and self confidence.
Something the youth of today has very little of.
It would be nice if they brought it back. I probably would sign up again and give it a go for old time sake.
And I bet many people would again if given the chance.
The problem today is it's so easy for parents to buy a game machine and some games and they know where their kids are and what they are doing.
Without putting much time into it by spending time with their kids.
And building rockets sometimes takes a little assistance from the parents, which most seem to not have too much time for such things these days from what I see. There are always the exceptions, but it does take a little adult intervention for the best of outcome and satisfaction.
 

Kabulrocks

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I was at level 3 when my T-shirt started looking like it went through a meteor shower. Thee most worn shirt of all time I would have to say.
Marketing scheme or not, it gave the feeling of power to the youth and a sense of pride and self confidence.
Something the youth of today has very little of.
It would be nice if they brought it back. I probably would sign up again and give it a go for old time sake.
And I bet many people would again if given the chance.
The problem today is it's so easy for parents to buy a game machine and some games and they know where their kids are and what they are doing.
Without putting much time into it by spending time with their kids.
And building rockets sometimes takes a little assistance from the parents, which most seem to not have too much time for such things these days from what I see. There are always the exceptions, but it does take a little adult intervention for the best of outcome and satisfaction.
I still have my 1973ish Viper and am about to buy a new shirt. I would participate in a re-launch of the club.
 

caveduck

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My current Quest catalog has Skill Levels on the rocket kits (Dane Boles works for Quest now). ;)
Wow not sure how I missed that...I actually looked thru the website for a bit, must have been really sleepy!! Quest has 3 numbered levels. But it does look like we can pin the skill level thing in the model rocketry world on Dane! I checked a few more...MPC did not have skill levels, and Centuri 1970s catalogs also did not, though Estes did.

Also, Revell catalogs from the mid 1970s up through at least 2009 do not mention skill levels, so for them it looks to be fairly recent. I wonder if it was somehow inherited from Estes during the time they were both part of Hobbico.

Dane might know o_O
 
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