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The Key to the Junior Problem?
September 1968 American Aircraft Modeler

Sept. 1968 American Aircraft Modeler

September 1968 American Aircraft Modeler magazine cover Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Every special interest organization has had the equivalent of a "Junior Problem" as reported in this 1968 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine. It refers to efforts required to attract younger participants - pre-teen and teenagers - into a particular activity, and then how to keep them interested once involved. A common scenario is where a kid becomes interested in model airplanes, boats, cars, etc., and sometimes becomes very involved - even to the point of competition - and then abandons the realm once he enters college, goes off to work, raises a family, or is distracted by more important priorities. Often, though, once the critical responsibilities lessen, he returns to his former interest, this time with more knowledge and money to more fully enjoy the hobby. Personally, I have retained my interest in all things aeronautical and astronautical throughout my six-plus decades. At times that involved only reading and maybe building a scale plastic model or attempting to introduce my kids to the fine art of building and flying (unsuccessfully, BTW).

Proved by six years of solid results this co-curricular school club program supplies many missing answers.

The Key to the Junior Problem?, September 1968 American Aircraft Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsHarold W. Warner

photography/The Author

How many times have you seen the words "junior-problem"? A hundred times? A thousand? Well, if you're ready to admit that they just don't make kids like they used to, buddy, you have plenty of company. I feel that the kids do pretty well for themselves considering what today's society thrusts upon them. Want to make a modeler of every kid on your block? If you're enthused with a missionary zeal, let me make a few suggestions.

Six years ago, as a new teacher in an urban junior high school of about 1,700 prospective modelers, I founded the Sepulveda Balsa Butchers. Since I had not built models for ten years, I went to a local hobby dealer for advice on how to get things rolling, and he spent several hours discussing the subject, and even came to our first meeting to give an informal talk on what makes things fly. Since that time, I have found almost every hobby dealer in the area to be a gold-mine of ideas. Material help such as discounts for blub members and prizes for contests is also invaluable to a new club. Without their help, I might have become quite discouraged the first semester.

Having put an announcement of the first meeting in the school bulletin, I eagerly awaited the hundreds of boys which would surely be overjoyed to become a part of an activity as utterly fascinating as aeromodeling When only abou30 showed up, I was disillusioned to say the least. Undaunted, however, we embarked upon a building program which was designed to arouse interest in all concerned. About half of the original group survived until the end of the semester. Today, we average 40-50 members each semester. Since then, we have tried many things - some resounding successes, some dismal failures, but still the blub survives. A few of our ex-members are pilots today. One took seven trophies at the Dallas Nats, and many drop in to see me on their way to serve their country in various ways. I think the fight is worth it.

After six years of struggle, I'd like to suggest a few courses of action which may be of use to the up-and-coming junior club. Please keep in mind that being a co-curricular club in a public school, opens up certain areas, but restricts others. A private club might well avail itself of handy facilities of the local school such as gym, handicraft shop, or football field.

ROG will sustain a youngster's interest - Airplanes and Rockets

Good performance, up to two-minute flights, by an ROG will sustain a youngster's interest.

Built-up and tissue-covered models demand more skill - Airplanes and Rockets

Built-up and tissue-covered models demand more skill; group discussion to solve problems.

Classroom talks on theory, though necessary, are brief - Airplanes and Rockets

Classroom talks on theory, though necessary, are brief. Students' attention-span is short.

original design effort benefits from quality wood and rubber - Airplanes and Rockets

A first, original design effort benefits from quality wood and rubber. A winder is a must.

Sheet-balsa glider flight trimming starts here- Airplanes and Rockets

Much can be done to make a basic, sheet-balsa glider perform. Flight trimming starts here.

Monthly contest winners receive points - Airplanes and Rockets

Monthly contest winners receive points. Total for year determines who gets perpetual trophy.

Larger models are a joint effort by the club members - Airplanes and Rockets

Larger models are a joint effort by the club members. Ramrod 1000 was the Butchers' first.

First and foremost, keep in mind the psychology of the pre-adolescent. In general, he has a short attention span unless the activity is fiercely interesting. He is used to more of the "good things" of life than you or I were, and may look down on modeling as "kid stuff." you and I know that the public thinks model airplanes are for six- and seven-year-olds, so how do you convince a very status-conscious youngster that he will not be laughed at? Also the number of pursuits open to today's youngsters is, to say the least, staggering. At our school alone there are 26 clubs ranging from ham radio to chess clubs. An after-school activity has to compete with Scouts, dances, paper routes, and just about triple the amount of homework you and I took home. Many of my 11-13-year-olds have horses, mini-bikes, Little Leagues, music lessons, color TV's and swimming pools to occupy their time. Clearly, the prospective sponsor must realize all of these factors which are going to deter the kids from a model club. However, there is another facet to the modern child which was there when we were young, too, and that is an innate curiosity - a desire to explore, to investigate. There is also a desire to create, and to create something worthy of praise from his peers, his parents, the people he respects. This is the key.

One of the first things a new club might want to do is build its image. Having an experienced modeler or two put on a demonstration, gives modeling a little prestige. Our club membership doubled after practically the entire student body watched one of our hand-launched gliders soar daintily up and out of sight in an early-morning thermal before school one day. A U-control stunt exhibition will bring spectators from chess club, after-school football, and just about anywhere within earshot. A display of well-built model aircraft along with some that are easily within the capabilities of a junior modeler provides prestige from the more difficult ships, but a goal to attain or exceed with the less-perfect craft.

One or two building sessions a week is a must, with expert guidance always at hand. Members of local model clubs are more than happy to lend a hand in a beginners' program. A small initiation fee, dues, and auctions of donated models and supplies can build the club's supply-chest.

What will you need?

For a club of 30, I would suggest the following: one doz. X-acto knives, inexpensive variety; 1 razor-blade plane with several replacement double-edged blades; 75 sheets of assorted sandpaper, mainly coarse, cut into quarters; 1 roll transparent waxed paper; 1 pint model cement and several small plastic squeeze bottles; 1 large box of dressmakers' pins; 50 scrap-wood blocks of various sizes to use as sanding-blocks, dihedral props, etc.

Sixteen to 24 building boards (local lumber yard will saw 8 from sheet of soft fiber wallboard); 1 gallon nitrate-type airplane dope; 1 gallon pyroxylin nitrate thinner; 5-6 oz. plasticiser for dope. TCP, castor oil, or "warp-resistor"; 1 doz. 3/4" artists' brushes (inexpensive variety).

There are many items which one might add to the list, but I have found the above to be rather indispensable. If the club is to build just kit models, fine, but I have found many good hand-launched gliders, rubber jobs, and other models in magazines just waiting to be gobbled up by cost and quality-conscious juniors. A little tracing and a ditto machine will make copies of good plans available to all club members, and kits for these planes can be put together by club members in cooperation with a local hobby dealer much more cheaply than one might imagine. Commercial kits are handy, but often are atrociously priced, poorly designed, and filled with balsa unsuitable for anything but axe handles or doorsteps.

A good sequence of beginners' projects might look something like this:

1) Small Vee-dihedral hand-launched glider 7"-12" span of good 8-12 lb. grain contest balsa. (Light wood is a must. Cuts, sands easier and results in a lighter, more forgiving plane.)

2) Polyhedral contest hand-launched glider such as the "Omega" or "Sweepette" type; 3/16 to 1/4 light C-grain balsa wing, spruce fuselage, 1/16 or 1/32 sheet C-grain stab.

3) All-sheet rubber ROG type plane, 12"-16" span made of 1/32" sheet, with plastic propeller of Sleek Streek variety. Good rubber such as Pirelli 5/32 and a winder a must for interest-sustaining performance of one to two minute flights. (All-sheet gas models can be used at this time also.)

4) Built-up stick-and-tissue model either rubber, gas, or gravity powered. A towline glider is a good idea since it avoids the added hassle involved with building a good nose block or fiddling with an engine.

5) Advanced models adapted to abilities and interests of members. It is a good idea to keep a small stock of graded kits on hand for modelers who are ready to "move up."

I have found that a successful building program starts with a short talk and demonstration on what we are going to be doing, has one or two completed or partially completed models on hand for reference, and a great deal of patience with inexperienced modelers. When you see one member having trouble, call the entire group together for an on-the-spot demonstration of how to correct it. You can bet that this will keep ten others from making exactly the same mistake.

Do not let members take their planes home! Why? Well, either their cat will eat it, mother will throw it out by accident, little brother will break it or something. Convince them that building the model is only half the job, and that trimming it for flight is just as important. Make sure that an experienced modeler is there to help with those first few flights which will mean either a happy modeler with an airborne plane, or a disgruntled one with a pile of broken balsa to show for his best efforts. Take it home only after proper trimming.

A good idea is to schedule a practice session or two with ready-made gliders or rubber jobs to teach adjustment techniques and basic aerodynamics. Save that hand-made job for the club contest at the end of the building program.

Balsa Butchers have one outdoor and one indoor contest a month, timed for endurance-best of six flights. Prizes are modest, usually donated, but usually there are enough for all entrants to go home with something, even if it is only a tube of glue for the "worst crash."

We have tried many things such as design contests; exhibits in the cafeteria, monthly indoor scale meets; "smallest-plane-to-fly-five-seconds" contests; rubber scrambles where one boy winds and launches an ROG while his buddy retrieves quickly - the total time-in-the-air for a five-minute period being their score; "most unusual" contests; and, of course, the gamut of AMA events. We have built club project planes which kids who couldn't afford their own could work on. These were later auctioned off, the proceeds being used to buy a new kit or materials.

Business meetings of the club are enlivened by movies (obtained from the Los Angeles City Library, the Air Force, or local aircraft companies), slides, model flying and building demonstrations, and talks by experienced modelers.

The key to interesting the modern youth is to make him a part of modeling by helping him succeed. Give him a plane he can build. Help him over the rough spots. Let him show it off to his friends in the club when it flies. Give him the praise and encouragement he deserves. He has no use for anything boring or unrewarding in this age of over-stimulation and push-buttons. When we experienced and concerned modelers bemoan the "junior problem," we should try to put ourselves in the shoes of the jet-age youngster. If he cannot achieve some success, he will turn to football, slot cars, TV, etc. for his pastimes. These are O.K., but why lose a potential model aircraft enthusiast because of inadequate adult guidance? Would you be a modeler today if your efforts in that direction brought you nothing but disappointment? There are too many other things for kids to do nowadays. Let's sell model aviation; let's follow up with a program which will keep the kids involved and growing with the hobby; let's ask not what the kids are doing - but what we are doing for them. Many haven't even heard of model planes.



Posted December 31, 2022

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