Is the model rocketry hobby dying?

When my brother and I were elementary school student, I remember my older
brother attended
a local summer school class, Basic Rocketry. (The summer school also
offered an "Intermediate"
and "Advanced" class.) I don't remember what the class covered, but the
students were able
to build and launch a Skill-level-1 model-rocket. My brother said it was
quite fun, and
after his class was over he and I went to the local elementary school to
launch his rocket
a few more times. (He lost interest mainly because the engines cost money,
and his
words were "each launch burns money!")
Now, 20 years later, I went back to the local Hobby Shack (here in Orange
County, California),
the staff told me they don't stock model rocketry equipment anymore, due to
local regulations
and restrictions (basically, you'd have to drive 20+ min to the closest
designated launch
field.) All local public areas (schools, parks, etc.) no longer allow model
rocketry of any
kind (not that I blame them...the Orange County "parks" are so small, anyone
from the
mid-West would just laugh at what us Californians call "parks"!)
Come to think of it, I think they've also banned remote control models of
any kind (air or
Living in an urban area, I accept certain tradeoffs have to be made in the
name of
safety. But reading this newsgroup, it seems like lots of areas in the US
are closing
their grounds to model rocketry, even areas that are less densely populated.
Is model
rocketry being slowly choked to death?
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Kalifornia must be really bad if you can use an R/Ccar in a park. NJ sux but at least no one has hassled me for launching rocketd
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I can't speak for California, but I see rocketry growing all over the place. Even with the restrictions that are being placed on high power rocketry (another whole discussion), I even see growth in that area.
I doubt that model rocketry is as big as it was in the hey-day of the space program, but it has started to come back. In the North East (and other areas too), I see strong support of rocketry in schools (all levels), youth groups and the like.
Even in California I have to beleive that if you review the rules, abide by them, then you can build and fly model rockets. While your list of rules and restrictions may be stiffer than the rest of the country, it certainly isn't *banned*.
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I have to concur. I was part of the local NAR chapter back in the '70s. It folded due to lack of interest in organized rocketry (spell that lack of adult supervision), and it wasn't till a few years ago that a chapter opened up again. We also have 2 (or 3 if you count Ky) prefects for Tripoli.
Tripoli Minnesota is holding monthly launches where we fire 50-150 rockets. It's true that we have to go 60 miles north of the Twin Cities to our field, but that's so we can get our 10,000' ceiling for the big stuff. There are many schools that include model rocketry as extra curricular or electives.
I would also suggest that hobbies in general are waning. Many of the long time hobby stores have gone out of business in our area.
Save rocketry, stamp our video games!
Reply to
Wayne Johnson
Wishful thinking IMHO. I realize that you are a manufacture/dealer and your wallet is directly affected by what public interest there is in model rocketry. I see the hobby diminishing and almost non-existant with people under 18 ... and those people matter most because they would be the ones to introduce model to their children. Goto a Kaybees, Toys-R-Us, Walmart, even your TYPICAL neighborhood hobby shop and notice the small offering or lack there of model rockets.
Note: When I say non-existant, yes there are thousands of young people who flew a model rocket last Saturday. I am looking at the BIG picture. You need a certain PERCENTAGE of the group to engage in the activity to make it prophitable to you and to continue the activity in their old age and pass it onto their children. The percentage of young people engaging in the hobby/sport of model rocketry is 'back ground noise', i.e. it falls into the error percentage when calculating the mean percentage.
If you want to make money with a business, open a console game shop where you can buy/sell computer games for XBOX, and PS2. I am considering this very venture later next year ... the video game industry is over $20,000,000,000.00 anually and growing ... I see video games on TV, Cable, Satellite, and even Cell Phones and PDAs ... sure you make up a few hundred rocket kits and sell them to now mostly over 45 people. You goto launches and you see mainly guys 45+ and maybe a handfull of under 18 year olds ... go back and LOOK at the photos of launches from the 60s/70s and notice the ratio of kids to adults doing rocketry, and look at photos of a typical NAR meet today ... mirror image.
And I don't think model rocket sales in the United States even reaches anywhere NEAR 100 million ... I really doubt it ... more like 1 - 5 million tops and even that is stretching things.
It isn't. Model rocketry was a pop icon of the era when the United States and Soviet Union were competing on the internation stage for prestiege in space. Model rocketry in the early days, late 1940s - 1960s was a learning aide for thousands of budding engineers and research scientists, but not anymore. A couple years ago I called Vern Estes, yes I have his office number in Penrose, and he openenly stated, "that model rockets were once a learning aide, but now they are just toys".
Its coming back with older men who are now showing more grey hair and bald spots then every before. 13 year olds are not flocking to
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and submitting CC numbers for rocket orders. Most of your and others' clients are mostly middled aged or older. I said MOST, not all.
Now if Pres. Bush's plan to place man back on the Moon then Mars goes through in the next 5-15 years, then this will pique public interest once more and YES more people across all age groups will have an interest in space and rockets.
In SOME CA counties, model rockets are BANNED. Period. Now can you goto a field and fly ... sure. Cops are not going to send out the dogs to get the "EVIL" rocketeer, but a concered/misguided citizen can "shoo off" a model rocketeer and be legal in doing so. As for R/C planes; gas powered planes get banned due mostly for the noise they create. Electrics are growing in popularity because of this and frankly now offer the same excitement for the buck as gas.
I know that in Concord and Layfette California, model rockets have been banned after one landed on a roof of a $750,000 home and burned it down to the ground.
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First, model rocketry is a VERY expensive hobby when compaired to other hobbies. I no longer fly solids due to the costs of motors. Hybrids are the way to go if you want to save money in the medium-high powered arena. Most rocketry manufactures, if they are honest with you, will admit that most of their income is from the sales of model rocket motors. Vern Estes made his millions not with "Astron this" and "Damon that" but with Mable I and Mable II ... his motor making machines. It cost him pennies on the dollar to produce motors, and then he could turn around and sell them for 50 - 100 times their manufacting costs. This was the economic secret to his success as well as others. Why do you think early on, he GAVE AWAY kits ... it was so the consumer would build the kit, then BUY motors for it! The motors is where the money was being made ... just like soft drinks at a movie theatre or resturant ... it costs them 5 cents for a 12 oz drink, then they charge you $1.00+ for it; same with model rocket motors.
As for classes, I remember as a child, I was enrolled in the model rocket program at the Museum of Science of Industry in Los Angeles CA. They had a very good rocket program there in the late 60s ... its no more.
Well ground I don't believe. I love R/C Planes, but if I am at the computer doing some programming, or tunned into the History Channel, I really don't want my privacy intruded upon by the DRONING of gas R/C/ outside my window. Electrics are quiet and never get a second glance where I fly locally.
Rocketry is dying really due to its participants. The hobby has been serverly mismanaged by NAR, TRA, and vendors like ... well you know who, for decades. Rocketry was "in" 30 - 40 years ago because of the space race, and because of the networking that was done between government, military, and scientist across the country. Remember, that Wener von Braun was a NAR member, and so was Willey Ley and a host of other big names. These people had the influence to make model rocketry an intergral part of education for millions of young people. Yes, NAR #2 G. Harry Stine was in the mix as well :) Well that isn't the case today now is it? Lets look how things have changed:
1)NAR/TRA are suing the government instead of working with and within it.
2)Most of the leadership of NAR/TRA is ran by people who are more interested in their personal financial gain with model rocketry, than young people learnng from it.
3)Most of the people running NAR/TRA and other MR orginizations are not people in high positions of power or influence ... except in their "inner circles"
4)Some rocket manufactures are ingaged in felonious activities that are giving model rocketry a "black eye"
5)Public interest in rocketry of anytype has waned ... face it we put a man on the moon ... 'shows over folks ... move along, nothing to see here, move along'.
6)Costs of rocketry, insurance, liabilities is a major drain on money resorces.
7)MR leadership 'political in fighting' wastes time, resources, and people ...
You see there a host of reasons why the hobby is not what it once was in 1966 ...
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By NAR and TRA themselves and the primary vendors themselves.
In dollar terms it is bigger. In unit terms it is a bit smaller. In mindshare terms it is much smaller.
Research it.
Reply to
Jerry Irvine
As an additional note, for those who weren't there, the launch site was the LA Coliseum -- thinking back, that's pretty cool!
David Erbas-White
Reply to
David Erbas-White
While my (FlisKits) wallet is affected by public interest, that isn't what directs my opinion. It was my opinion of the value of rocketry and it viability that drove me to start a company. You see the hobby diminishing and almost non-existant. I do not. Opinions vary. As for Kaybees, Toys-R-Us and Walmart's offering small or no rocketry, how many "department" type stores offered a LOT of rocketry in the 60's and 70's. Not many as I recall (well, to be honest, *none*, as I recall) However, I (personally) never went into a hobby shop in the 60's/70's that didn't have rockets. Neither have I seen a hobby shop without rockets in the 90's/2000's (maybe I'm going to all the wrong hobby shops...)
It sounds like you have numbers. I would like to *know* what this percentage is, *and* what the "error percentage" is. In any event, I disagree (again, my own personal experience having taught rocketry to several thousands of students in the past 20 years and seein many under 18 folks flying at our local club (and other clubs i visit))
I can't argue with that. What makes you think my sole goal with a rocket company is to "make money"? I lost a 6 figure job after 25 years and decided I'd rather be happy and contributing to something I care about than be "wealthy". I make a living and thoroughly enjoy what I do. I think back on a line from a song a standup comic would sing "And I get paid for doing this..." :)
THe majority of our customers are under 45 and about a third are under 18. Also, 100 kits wouldn't last us a week. A "few hundred" may get us to the end of the month, but not likely.
You goto launches and you see mainly guys 45+ and maybe a
Point. SO let's fix that.
Point, so let's fix that.
Vern also told me (yes, I have his number too...) that he sees "Estes" rockets as "toys", but not "all (model) rocketry".
Point. They (the 13 year olds) use their parents CC numbers.
Most of your and others' clients are mostly middled aged or
Incorrect. Less than 50% of our (FlisKits) customers are in the "over 40" bracket and we have a *lot* of customers.
MAJOR point :)
Bottom line is, I have seen growth. Clearly you (and others) have not. Are we up to the numbers in the 60's? No way. Are we getting close? No way. But that doesn't mean there isn't growing interest.
Rather than highlight everything that may be wrong with the hobby and its followers, I wish more people would do *more* to aid its growth and vitality.
It's easy to tear down. I choose to build.
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Rocketry could be doing better but it is far from dead and in some cases it's better than ever before. All I can give you is what I see but from where I stand, despite all of the rough spots and the negative things the hobby has endured the last 4 years, I believe rocketry in general is in good shape. I would also have to say it depends on where you live.
Locally, 10 years ago, we had 5-6 stores supplying rocketry items. 5 years ago we had 10-11. Today in the metro area we have 18+ stores selling rockets & supplies, from Wal-Mart to mom & pop stores. Some have many kits and a good inventory of supplies, others just have the essentials.
The state clubs have grown in number, as well as membership and are growing every month, both NAR & TRA. There are many, many, more people that fly who are not part of any club AND there are groups of people that have formed model / HPR clubs, that are NOT affiliated with ANY organization. They are independent but most use the same codes as NAR / TRA.
My youngest daughter 19, has been flying since she was 4, works full time at Wal Mart and is one of 42 cashiers. She works peak hours and has been watching her sales of kits and supplies for me. She tells me she makes sales of engines or rockets EVERY day, mostly to kids under 18 or younger (with a parent) and like I said, she is only 1 of 42. I don't know how much this one store sells but her sales applied as an average, indicate rocketry is doing pretty well, it's just 1 of many in the area.
Depending on who you talk to, there are clubs all over the country doing well, others are squeaking by. It seems that those actively trying to grow, are doing so. Those just waiting on it to happen, are at best, static. There are plenty of things to draw kids away from the hobby but from what I've seen, there's plenty of time and desire to be involved in the hobby, where there is an opportunity (a field) or the knowledge that it exists.
About 75% of the membership of my local club (37 members) is a member of NAR or TRA. NAR 665 / TRA 81 has been in existence for only 15 months. If you want to see how to grow a Section, go to the club website and spend sometime to see what the club offers members and all the things that have been done to make the public aware 665 / 81 is here. We are growing in both model and HPR rockets. The club will have it's first EX launch in July.
We have a great website, corporate sponsors, media coverage, some members have rocketry websites, most of our members pitch in to make the club visible, profitable and fun. Egos are kept in check and we're working with the other Sections in our area for the good of all of the clubs and the hobby. These are a few of the things the club is doing. Our club is fortunate in that we have a very diverse group of builders and flyers, most with decades of experience.
Much like success in real estate is said to be location, location, location, growing a club is attitude, attitude, attitude. Attitudes will make or break a club, an organization, or a hobby.
Coincidentally, I'll be posting a new Fire & Smoke tomorrow night, touching on some of these topics.
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Add to that, there are more small rocket companies now, i.e. Fliskits for example and that Estes is adding kits more often and seemingly headed in the right direction, I'd say they are responding to market demand.
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It'll be a dead hobby when they pry my certification from my cold dead fingers.
As far as the yes it is/no it's not discussion. You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to. I dislike politics, interpersonal or otherwise, and I _really_ dislike authority (ie BATF/Homeland Junta/McCarthy-isque Patriot's Act) telling me what to do beyound common sense guidelines. Screw all that crap, leave it to the bean counters, nit-pickers, and anal retentives. I want to punch a hole in the sky with HPR for the technical challenge. As such that's what I intend to do. I also want to fly "just" model rockets 'cause they're a ball too. If it wasn't fun, for all the reasons I find the hobby fun, I wouldn't do it. If I want non-fun BS I have 2 ex-wives, the bills, and my job in abundance and don't need to volunteer for more. When you do it for fun you also try to get others involved. Right now I've 3 possible recruits waiting for a launch that coincides with their free time. That's also why I'll be a TARC mentor for as long as the program continues. If Bush invades the Moon and Mars to find out where all the WMD's are, gets us back into space proper....the hobby will see a resurgence as some of the Gameboy junkies and Trekkies stop looking down Troy's cleavage to look up at the sky again.
Meantime I'll keep doing what I'm doing in the aging, balding, greying contingient of the hobby.
Reply to
Zathras of the Great Machine
Hello Randy,
Well I hope that this indicates an OVERALL up swing in the interestes of young folk to engage in the hobby of model rocketry. I will look around myself over the next couple of weeks and see what I find. I do know that Michaelson's in my area carry a small selection of Estes rockets on a constant basis.
I know of three hobby shops spread over a 20 mi linear distance, one carries NO rocket items, the other has only MODERN parts that collect dust , and the other has North Coast kits priced at like $125 and up ... and a few of the normal Estes stuff. I think the largest carrier of rocketry items would be my local Wallmart. They have a shelf full of 'Launchables' and starter sets ... and yes rocket motors behind glass.
Perhaps it will be Wallmart who will usher in the resurgence of model rocketry across America? Call them Rocket-Mart ... maybe NAR should try to forge relationships with retailers who carry rocket supplies? Maybe a NAR group or 2 or 50 should have demo launches right there at the Wallmarts and Wallmart could have a huge display/sale during the day? Insurance and liability wouldd have to be figured out, but if Wallmart is willing to sell the motors, they shouldn't be too fearful of flying them out of a roped off area of the parking lot.
One more thing, I wonder if the now dead heir of Wallmart had anything to do with Wallmart carrying model rockets. He and his father were both pilots ... maybe as father and son, they enjoyed a few hours out in the field flying rockets?
Well back to lurking for a few weeks, months ... heck I have posted more in the last 5 hours than I have the entire year ... I just don't want to get back into the crap that is group is now famous for ...
Good luck model rocketry wrote:
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consciousness. I'm sure they can "sense" your daughters's interest in model rocketry, and for synchronicity sake, they channel their purchases through her
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