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The Future of this hobby.....

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I don't do spirals
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The future of this hobby will not be affected by who sells high-power kits the cheapest. The future is not in who sells motors for least expensive. Most importantly, J+ flights are not what will keep this hobby alive. There are 10X the needed vendors for the number of people associated with this hobby, that has become clear. The future of this hobby depends on you giving a kid a $10 Estes or Quest kit to get them hooked, so they then do so for others. The average age in this hobby has gone way up - that is not good, Estes/Quest needs to re-focus on schools & first time flyers.

I remember as a kid in school getting an Estes Catalog once a year, and it was like Christmas. Estes & Quest both now only give lip service to this market. 25% of sales should be put towards attracting the new, young market - they grow into the older mature market.

There are two other reasons why newbies don't get involved as well, let's see if you can guess them
 

Antares JS

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Really not sure what you're talking about here. The 2020 Estes catalogue is full of easy builds for kids along with these "Destination Mars" and "Space Corps" themes that are obviously aimed at younger folks. They also still have kit and motor bulk packs and resources for educators. What more do you think they should be doing?

Giving a kid a free kit is no guarantee that they are going to get hooked at all. There are schools all over the country that build rockets in class, but how many of those kids decide they are interested enough to build another rocket on their own time, and acquire a launch system and motors, whether paying for it themselves or begging their parents for them? If you give a random kid a kit, how do you know they are going to build it and fly it?

I'm not trying to bash you here, I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from.
 

les

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A few reasons for "lack of newbies" is difficulty in finding a launch site and attention span.
When I was young I could walk to a nearby school yard or park and launch. Heck, back then NYS still had Blue Laws requiring stores to be closed on Sunday. As a special treat my father would bring me to a large mall and we would fly in the empty parking lot (much bigger than the football field at the school). The security might stop by and watch a few launches then continue on.

The other issue is attention span. There is too much "instant gratification" required nowadays. Except for a RTF, the time to build and finish a rocket is more than most younger people will tolerate.
Build motor mount - wait - glue one fin on - wait - glue next fin on - wait - glue next fin - wait.
In that time they can get through 3 levels on the latest video game...........
 

NOLA_BAR

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The biggest obstacle I have had is lack of launch sites. Housing, retail development and restrictions have basically obliterated launch sites in my area. I was a cub master for my sons scout pack and all of them including the parents wanted to launch rockets. I couldn’t find anywhere to safely and legally launch. I have to drive 4 hours each way to a club launch. That’s fine for me, but most parents don’t have that kind of time or money. I’m just grateful I can get to a good launch a couple times a year.

That’s not to say all of those kids would continue in the hobby, maybe a couple. Maybe a couple of the moms or dads would enjoy it as much as their kid or more.
 

RoyAtl

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I disagree. Estes in particular is hyper-focused on schools and first time buyers. I do buy your major premise however, that we need to get more young people interested. And I don't really have an answer, but I think I know the roadblocks. Allow me to practice some amateur psychology:

When I was young (in the 60's and 70's), the mass of model rocket flyers was between the ages of 10-14 and we did NOT see them as TOYS, but as a hobby, something we would stick with, try new things, etc, at least for a few months. Attrition was pretty much because of girls (because we were almost always boys) and cars.

The "only boys" part of the problem seemed to be somewhat solved in the 2000's but the past five years I'm seeing fewer girls at our events. maybe that's just a local anomaly.

Now, the initial market for rockets seems to be parents buying rocket sets for their 4-6 year olds. These kids are developmentally capable only of seeing these products as toys, and when they lose interest they will compartmentalize their experience as "playing with toys." Note: I realize there is a tiny sub-set of these kids whose parents are themselves involved with rockets as a hobby and those kids will see things differently.

A little later, we introduce kids through Scouting, but this is as a checkmark activity to a badge. not as a hobby.

Thanks to TARC, there is now another intro to the hobby at around 14, but it is introduced primarily as a team project as a means to a specific goal, not as an ongoing hobby.

In our clubs now, we're mostly adults and many of us feel that *our* hobby is high power and we give short shrift to model rockets. How many of our adult flyers have even flown a model rocket (other than to fix something up for one of their kids) in the past couple of years? How many adult flyers have you met who react dismissively towards model rockets, or that they're only toys for kids? So what happens? The kids that do show up to fly rockets are partronized, or at worst, ignored.

For the past thirty years I've heard one major excuse about the missing 10-14 segment: they've got more sophisticated activities such as video games and computers, and organized sports. I mentioned TARC earlier; this program has been successful, for teams. For individuals 10-14, a similar initiative could be useful. NAR's NARTREK and NRC could be that, but clubs need to get behind it and put a little work into it, and maybe some add some proverbial "carrots on sticks." Prizes for NARTREK achievements and local NRC prizes. Maybe some prizes could be coordinated and sponsored nationally. An ideal place for Estes and Quest to assist.

That's my thoughts for now. Talk amongst yourselves...
 

BF Rockets

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My son hadn't been with me to a launch since he was 10 when he built some Estes kits about 10 years ago.. His interest didn't seem all that great so I never really pushed it on him. Recently he came with me to a launch, and I launched a rocket with an M motor to about 3 miles and let him track it with my radio plugged into his phone. He was pretty amazed, but not amazed enough to build anything or get involved in the hobby.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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The main thing is the launch site problem. Around here, fire danger is so great that even if you own your own launch site, you would still need permission from the local Fire Marshall. If you want to comply with the law, the most practical way is to join a club and let the club get all the required permissions. That creates a bottleneck. A hobby is a lot easier to start and maintain if you can just do it on your own.
 

RocketTree

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Launch site issue is the problem here also. I got a couple folks interested in trying the hobby with an Estes starter set. There are no launch sites within 1500 miles of here and lucky to find a 500'x500' area without trees. Most were discouraged, having lost the rocket or not able to use it at all. Shipping a pack of motors (in Canada) triples the cost, so you need to order a lot to justify the expense. I also discovered the hobby on my own, which has its own merit.
 

RoyAtl

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The main thing is the launch site problem. Around here, fire danger is so great that even if you own your own launch site, you would still need permission from the local Fire Marshall. If you want to comply with the law, the most practical way is to join a club and let the club get all the required permissions. That creates a bottleneck. A hobby is a lot easier to start and maintain if you can just do it on your own.
That has *always* been a problem, though certainly more so now. I found a .KML file --google earth-- I made of potential launch sites around Atlanta more than ten years ago. I checked it and 90% of the sites had been developed! The other 10% became soccer parks.

Even in 1970, I as a kid in a rural area found it easier to get my parents to drive me to a club 60 miles away in Atlanta than to get permission for a field near me. One land owner gave me permission to fly in his smallest field (600' sq) which was ok. And my elem school had a 200'x300' field. And I could fly on 1/2A in my front yard. Gyroc was the best!
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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Just to add to my last comment, my main local club has been great with outreach. When we had access to hold monthly launches at Moffett Field, it was amazing. It was a location central to an area of 10 million people, and it could accommodate hundreds of people at a launch. We had a constant stream of cub scouts, school groups, and youth organizations. We always had multiple TARC teams. And because launches were monthly year-round, we could maintain good momentum. Unfortunately, we don’t have that field any longer. So now the club is only able to host about 4 launches per year in the winter months at our high-power site. And that site is a much further distance away. So the outreach is limited.

One thing is certain, the outreach is not limited by lack of rockets. Any kid who shows up at one of our launches without a rocket will be given one to fly and to keep. People are always donating kits, and the club takes donations of parts and broken rockets and fixes them up into flyable condition to be given away as freebies that can be flown immediately.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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With only a few million bucks, I could acquire a great launch site in the agricultural areas just outside this huge metropolitan area and offer almost unlimited outreach opportunities. Who’s in?
 

neil_w

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In our clubs now, we're mostly adults and many of us feel that *our* hobby is high power and we give short shrift to model rockets. How many of our adult flyers have even flown a model rocket (other than to fix something up for one of their kids) in the past couple of years? How many adult flyers have you met who react dismissively towards model rockets, or that they're only toys for kids? So what happens? The kids that do show up to fly rockets are partronized, or at worst, ignored.
I've heard this many times but have never experienced it. Certainly, no one has ever accused my rockets of being toys for kids, or treated them dismissively, at the club launches I've attended. At the RadRocks launches, at least, the kids with small model rockets are treated well and encouragingly.

Anyway, I also think that difficulty of finding launch sites is a deterrent, and there should be better resources out there to help beginners figure out a way to fly, including support materials in beginner's kits.

Still, that presumes that the kids have even had the idea to build and fly a rocket in the first place. I think that retail placement is important for that. I also think that tying in electronics and/or robotics could add to the appeal for modern youngsters. The Estes Astrocam is a good step in that direction.

Finally: I think the pattern of "do rockets as a kid, give them up as an adolescent, become a BAR (maybe) when older" is inevitable. The key to sustainability is to make sure kids have that exposure when young, and then have the exposure again when older. I was 50 when I became a BAR; it took a few years of exposure at 4H fairs before it occurred to me that I could go back and do it again. If I hadn't been to those 4H fairs with my daughter, I would almost certainly never have gotten back in it.
 

neil_w

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With only a few million bucks, I could acquire a great launch site in the agricultural areas just outside this huge metropolitan area and offer almost unlimited outreach opportunities. Who’s in?
I have often thought that that would be a great thing to do with lottery winnings: purchase some land and make it freely available to rocket launches and RC flying.
 

NOLA_BAR

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When I got back into the hobby I was actually kind of surprised with the lack of outreach in my area. There is a strong history/connection to both the past and current space program with Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center. I was sure there were launches going on somewhere nearby. :dontknow:
 

NOLA_BAR

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Finally: I think the pattern of "do rockets as a kid, give them up as an adolescent, become a BAR (maybe) when older" is inevitable. The key to sustainability is to make sure kids have that exposure when young, and then have the exposure again when older. I was 50 when I became a BAR; it took a few years of exposure at 4H fairs before it occurred to me that I could go back and do it again. If I hadn't been to those 4H fairs with my daughter, I would almost certainly never have gotten back in it.
Yes! This is myself included. It is just human nature.
 

Joshua F Thomas

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I'm speculating here, but: When the hobby was young, there was no internet, no video games, and television was young. The space race was still fresh in the minds of everyone. With less attractions and higher interest in spaceflight, more people of all ages were interested in flying rockets.
 

Antares JS

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I've heard this many times but have never experienced it. Certainly, no one has ever accused my rockets of being toys for kids, or treated them dismissively, at the club launches I've attended. At the RadRocks launches, at least, the kids with small model rockets are treated well and encouragingly.

Anyway, I also think that difficulty of finding launch sites is a deterrent, and there should be better resources out there to help beginners figure out a way to fly, including support materials in beginner's kits.

Still, that presumes that the kids have even had the idea to build and fly a rocket in the first place. I think that retail placement is important for that. I also think that tying in electronics and/or robotics could add to the appeal for modern youngsters. The Estes Astrocam is a good step in that direction.

Finally: I think the pattern of "do rockets as a kid, give them up as an adolescent, become a BAR (maybe) when older" is inevitable. The key to sustainability is to make sure kids have that exposure when young, and then have the exposure again when older. I was 50 when I became a BAR; it took a few years of exposure at 4H fairs before it occurred to me that I could go back and do it again. If I hadn't been to those 4H fairs with my daughter, I would almost certainly never have gotten back in it.
For your first paragraph, the one time I had small rockets treated dismissively was the one time I went to a launch with Tripoli San Diego, and no low power pad was set up until I asked if one was available and someone responded along the lines of "yeah, we got one of those ones we use when the boy scouts bring their dinky rockets."

I do agree that finding launch sites has gotten much harder since the late 90's when I got started. Large plots of clear, public land have become increasingly scarce. I don't mind driving 2.5 hours each way to an MDRA launch every month, but this could deter some people.

I also agree that electronics and robotics are a good way to get kids interested, considering what rockets are competing against these days.

I'm an exception to the "BAR Pattern." I guess I was enough of a geek that I never really stopped doing rockets from the late 90's to today. I have had to go on hiatus from rocketry due to life circumstances, but it was always with the intention of getting back into it as soon as I could. Even while on hiatus, I kept my Tripoli membership current so I wouldn't lose my certs. I wonder sometimes if I'm the youngest person (33) to have a Tripoli 15 year pin...
 

dr wogz

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I do some work with the local library for kids themed events, Lego shows mainly. (And our dog is a child certified therapy dog, and has done a few 'read to the dog' programs for kids at teh local library). The woman looking after the kids theme events knows I do rocketry, and have done a few school presentations. She asked if I was willing to do a build & fly session with the kids. I said sure, but we have two issues:
  1. we are within 5 miles (5 kilometres even!) of Dorval / Trudeau airport (Montreal's main airport: 3 runways, and Air France was flying their A380 in daily) So, launching is an issue.. finding one to accommodate local kids & parents..
  2. when I said we could do it over a 3 or 4 days, to build, talk, etc.. (roughly 4-8 hours total) she said, no. She was thinking a 1-day, 2 hour max session, and launch the same day.. So, it was quickly dropped.
Pitty.

So, as many have mentioned:
  • People are lot more strict about "trespassing" or even allowing such an activity on their property.
  • the hobby is competing with computer, video games, online socializing & such..
  • Parent; need to be at the launch to ensure we aren't a bunch of perverts / pedophiles
  • What, you need to "build" it? so what else do I need?! glue? a knife? sand paper?! (So I see parent;y see this $10 rocket quickly become a $60 expenditure, and we have't even talked about launching it!)
  • School & organized sports
  • And, the ever perceived dangers of it blowing up, blowing up a building, killing someone, joining Hezbollah (OK, that's a stretch.. sorta)

I did get approached by one teacher to do a school event, but she didn't know the firs thing, nor know how to approach the subject, the local school board pushed the idea, but gave little to no support for said adventure.

As for land, I used to fly R/C. my go-to club was shut down by the provincial government, because we were "using agricultural land for other purposes" (it really was the way to strong arm us to give up the field for near future developments.) The 2nd field close to me is also about to be lost due to the current mayor wanting to make a large swath of Montreal's west island "an island green space" and will soon be pushing out any & all activities & such that aren't "green".. Pretty sad, for a city with a major aerospace industry (Bombardier & CAE, not to mention MDA, Marconi, and RCA in the early 70's, and a few others...)
 

samb

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... Estes & Quest both now only give lip service to this market. ...
Do you have some information to back up this claim ? The number of Ready to Fly and Almost Ready to Fly offerings in the current catalog would seem to refute it. Perhaps you meant the de-emphasis of building skills at the entry level. That's something that has been a trend for quite some time and in many other hobbies besides rocketry. FWIW I think the way forward is more and interesting payloads for the casual hobbyist. What's your solution ?
 

rklapp

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Bill Stein has talked extensively about the future of rocketry. He said he had a NAR# the day he was born.

They are sleeping with the devil and stocking at Walmart because the future is getting kits into young hands. Previous Estes owners ran the business like a toy instead of a hobby. This produced short term results.

They propagate the industry by selling hobby kits to kids who then grow up and spend their disposable income on rockets (BAR style). That’s why they made an exclusive deal with HL to sell rockets at a discount. Not to make money but to sow the seeds.

We have a designated park that allows rockets and everyone is very interested when we launch. It’s only 150m long with a row of monkeypod trees and a canal at the end. Sometimes the park is used by the after school sports but that’s the risk. The goal is to build enough rockets that you won’t mind losing a few to the evil canal monsters.

E53B4B65-D313-4155-B812-0BBB4C3EFED9.jpeg
 

cwbullet

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This is not a criticism, all clubs could do a better job at outreach. If you go to a launch, you can clearly see we are at risk of becoming a dying hobby.
 

PayLoad

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What does this even mean? Lots of people get the catalogs.
Respectfully, and from experience, no, they don't. Especially the young kids who need to be the ones getting them. I happen to know a former vendor who requested from both Estes & Quest catalogs to give away with free class kits (vendor donated). Estes supplied 10 catalogs. Quest, 5.
 

CalebJ

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I don't know how to respond to this...

The Estes catalog includes tons of new rockets this year in all sorts of classifications from E2X to upper skill levels and sizes.
The catalog can be requested in seconds from the website and will be sent to your door for free.

What exactly is it that you're looking for?
 

PayLoad

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I don't know how to respond to this...

The Estes catalog includes tons of new rockets this year in all sorts of classifications from E2X to upper skill levels and sizes.
The catalog can be requested in seconds from the website and will be sent to your door for free.

What exactly is it that you're looking for?
Any business in decline will eventually fail if active measures are not taken. Actively seek new customers. A phone number to call to get a catalog, sending 5 catalogs to someone who is trying to get new kids in the hobby, that is lip service. Please know this is not an attack, this is a simple observation

I do agree with above that the way to grow the hobby is to make it more interesting - hence the name "Payload". Sponsored contests. Giveaways (No school will budget rockets at this time. NONE) The old addage "You have to spend money to make money" is true. A major supplier having 6 vice presidents in a hobby of 12k participants is, well, insert your word here.
 

samb

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Yes. If nobody get's the catalogs, what good are they?
Ok, so when you were a kid you received a catalog every year from the school ? Lucky you. And you say that was an Estes outreach program to supply the schools and that doesn't exist anymore, right ? To be honest, I don't know what Estes catalog distribution plan is today but I do see alot of content aimed at educators on there website. More than lip service I think.
 
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