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Home / Newsdesk / Editorial Articles / From a Poor Teacher's Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
From a Poor Teacher's Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR? Print E-mail PDF Rocketry Planet Newsdesk RSS Feed
Editorial by MANUEL MEJIA, JR.   
Thursday, March 10, 2011

ImageFor the last several years, longtime National Association of Rocketry (NAR) senior members and former members have talked about the $62 annual membership fee. The discussion about it by postal letter to me has never subsided since the fee was implemented several years back. Many poorer senior NAR members have either left the organization or are giving it serious thought because the U.S. economy resembles the Great Depression of the 1930s and thus money has become very precious.

One group of rocketeers that are very badly impacted by the annual fee are teachers and teacher specialists. Unlike rocketeers in other professions, educators are not the best paid. However, educators play a major role in recruiting junior and leader members for the NAR. They also get youngsters involved in programs such as the Challenger Center's Reach for the Stars and NAR's Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Due to the cost of senior membership, many of my colleagues skip discussing NAR when they do rocket-related projects.

One policy that could bring the NAR back into the classroom discussion is to offer a special educator's membership at, say, $30 a year. Doing this would make membership more attractive to teachers who otherwise consider NAR an non-essential luxury.

One issue that will likely be raised if a rate reduction for is proposed for educator rocketeers is that of the high power rocketeer. If the educator is certified Level 1 or higher, then there should be no discount offered to them. High power fliers tend to be financially well off enough that they can pay the $62.00 a year. However, there are those educators that have NAR membership that never fly anything above a G motor. Many never even use ammonium perchlorate composite fuel!

It is fairly obvious that the $62.00 fee was instituted in part to subsidize the higher insurance costs associated with high power rockets. No matter what NAR says to people, there is a higher risk factor in flying a "J" motor than there is flying an "A" motor. The safety code reflects that.

There are a number of NAR seniors, many of them poor educators, who will never fly high power due to the cost of building materials, tools, and motors. Many educators will not even fly a "D" motor due to flying field limitations.

After all this time with the $62 fee, all of the long-time senior NAR members who want to fly high power have already certified at a Level 1 or Level 2. Those long-time seniors who have not certified by now will most likely never certify due to economics. There is no reason for those poorer rocketeers to be paying $62 for additional coverage that they simply do not need.

It is very simple to determine which NAR senior member flies high power—they have to have a certification of some type. Those fliers are able to afford the expense of high power technology and the $62 membership fee. Those senior members who are not certified are going to be either new NAR members, educators, or poor senior NAR members. The new members who want to fly high power will make their intentions known as soon as they file for a Level certification.

As for the latter two rocketeer types, both are under financial stress and need an incentive to either remain in the NAR or to join it as a new flier. Frankly, it was not fair to force poorer NAR members to subsidize the high power insurance requirements of richer NAR members. In the long term, such a practice is a losing proposition, especially since the economy had lost much of its high octane characteristics.

For those senior NAR members who only fly G or below rockets (many of them educators), they should be given a price break and charged $30.00 a year. This would help with the membership numbers that still have not reached the 5200 goal that was set back during NARAM 52 in August of 2010.

I respectfully submit this proposal to the NAR Board for consideration at its next meeting. The proposal is one based on sound merit.

Manuel Mejia, Jr., M.A.
Educator, State of Florida
NAR 34611

Editor's note: As a point of contrast to Mr. Mejia's recommendation that NAR allow lower membership rates for members who do not participate in high power rocketry, consider the Academy of Model Aeronautics, who provides free memberships to youths under the age of 19. NAR, on the other hand, charges $25 for those of the same age. The only thing that will subsidize growth of an organization is new blood, whether it come from non-high power flying senior members or young people who join due to a lowered barrier to entry.

Manuel Mejia, Jr., is a teacher from south Florida who uses hobby rocketry as an outreach program to breach the socio-economical barriers of some of his students. One of the fastest growing classes of people in his school district, the lower income poor do not have the resources to participate in the hobby yet they all still have their dreams, where Manuel's use of household discards such at paper towel tubes and Pringle's cans has had an impact.

Reader comments:
#1 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Sounds great but it won't work. Reducing membership fees on one side would, more likely than not, impact NAR's revenues enough that it would be forced to charge the other side more. HPR flyers would start to feel they are subsidizing the hobby side. Class warfare works both ways. This could result in NAR, HPR flyers switching over to Tripoli which could hurt NAR revenue even more.

The membership fees aren't just to cover insurance it is also used to fund the battles NAR has to fight in Washington to protect the hobby. from being strangled to death by pointles rules and regulations. Also, hobby rockets cause damage too -

One does not have to spend lots of money to fly rockets. It does require some ingenuity however! Teachers can buy mini rockets with 4 motors for under $12. I have taught rocketry concepts by making match stick rockets - which are really cheap to make. One went over 20' up. Still too much money, water or baking soda rockets are cheap and fun and can go very high - .
Arnold Roquerre on 03-11-2011 12:53 AM
#2 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
It take some work to drag me onto the internet this time of year.....

Is it just me? I just can't agree with the tone of the last couple of articles from this educator?
This point of view also seems counter with what I experience from the good folks in the rocketry community.

(from this FORMER member of the Mass.Teacher's union)
How I work rocketry education. And I know I am not the only one.
-I teach rocketry to all sorts of kids. From a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.
-I no longer work with any public schools, as of last year. I do it on my own. It just works out better.

Oh, and one more note. I receive not one dime for teaching rocketry. I do not accept gas money for travel. I charge no fees. My students young and old purchase only there own rockets and consumables. Of those hobby items I work out deals if I need to to make these launches "offers they can't refuse" .
{Full disclosure: I will take some barbecue now and then if offered but I do not consider that payment}

I teach rocketry.... no, I spread the Rocketry Gospel.... because I like to.

Speaking of NAR don't they use a slogan .... something about pay it forward?
This may not work for everyone. But, this works for me. It makes me happy.

If you do what makes you happy and enjoy what your doing, hmmmm .. may be it can improve your outlook on life.

Nothing better than than teaching "dumpster diving rocketry". Pulling trash from the Tribal Council hall dumpster and helping kids make that into rockets. It's recycling too....

And in closing: FLY ROCKETS= BE HAPPY

Hotrod Lincoln on 03-11-2011 09:19 AM
#3 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Well, I for one have said several times over the past few years that NAR membership dues are too high. Whether this is because of the additional costs of insurance due to additional liability concerns over HPR, as Mr. Meija alleges, I'm not sure, but it certainly sounds plausible. Insurance in general has increased in cost greatly over the past couple decades, and the coverage or at least the actual indemnities in case of a claim are increasingly spurious, IMHO. Certainly the LEGAL impacts on hobby rocketry have largely stemmed from issues originating in HPR, that fact cannot be denied, and yet ALL rocket hobbyists have been de-facto "taxed" to finance the legal challenges that have resulted from these HPR issues. I for one remember a time BEFORE HPR existed as an officially sanctioned activity when the regulations were quite lax. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, and hobby rocketry would be experiencing similar problems at this point in history simply because of increased security concerns post-9-11, regardless of whether HPR existed or not, but I doubt it.

I know I personally won't join NAR because of the high price of membership. All I'm particularly interested in is the magazine; I don't care to fly competitively and I provide my farm as a club launching field -- I see no need to blow 1/4 to 1/3 of my yearly hobby budget on an expensive NAR membership with little return.

I also have no interest in participating in HPR activities (though I have occasionally observed) and certainly don't have the budget for it, and have NO DESIRE WHATSOEVER to 'jump through hoops' to get some capricious "certification", especially not for a "hobby" activity that is supposed to be a leisure activity -- I have to maintain enough professional certifications and such in real life, without adding more frustration and expense for a hobby! For those who do, more power to you, but I fail to see the necessity of me having to subsidize other's activities...

I would join NAR at $30. I was a NAR member 20 years ago when I graduated high school, and I was SHOCKED to see the costs of NAR membership upon coming back into the hobby. I see now how this has throttled NAR membership, and will continue to do so.

I don't pretend to have the answers for anyone else, or for NAR, but I can only speak for myself, and the motivations and reasons why I will continue to not join NAR, not at the $62 cost. Yes, there are many other things that I have to spend money on, including dues in professional organizations and certification costs and paperwork and such that cost more, but that's beside the point. I certainly wouldn't be doing those freely of my own volition either were they not required for my job. For a hobby activity, the costs and trouble are simply TOO HIGH (for me). For those who have the funds and the desire to spend hundreds of dollars on a single launch/rocket, that is there prerogative, and they're welcome to it -- that is their right and privilege, but I think any tendency to consider themselves as "subsidizing" those who participate only in LPR is at best absurd and at most completely disingenuous. Besides, we're talking about the difference between people making decisions based on either A) being unable to afford a $62 SR membership or $25 JR membership, B) having to prioritize their expenditures and finding NAR dues "not worth the expense" to them personally based on their allocated hobby budget, VERSUS those who willingly spend much larger sums of money on HPR activities, for whom the existing NAR dues is 'petty change' which they have no compunction about paying, and think everyone else should too regardless of their economic conditions.

I don't often agree with Mr. Meija and his posts, and don't necessarily agree with all his assertions in this instance either, but I can see the validity in some of what he says here and agree with it.

Best of luck! OL JR
luke strawwalker on 03-11-2011 02:00 PM
#4 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
$62 bucks for a year. Membership includes insurance.

It's a bargain. I'm likely to spend more than that on gas just getting to a launch.

Hotrod Lincoln on 03-11-2011 04:13 PM
#5 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
$62 bucks for a year. Membership includes insurance.

It's a bargain. I'm likely to spend more than that on gas just getting to a launch.

$62 a year for NAR compared to $70/$60 for Tripoli, insurance is included with both, but with NAR you get a magazine that is a pretty good value in a market of disappearing hobby rocketry magazines. Add the $41.70 figure and you are looking at $62 vs. $115, which makes it more of a bargain for the economically-challenged. What makes NAR, taking the magazine issue into consideration for comparing membership in both organizations, less expensive than TRA? Some would argue its the higher cost of insurance.

But your last sentence is what sets the tone of Mr. Mejia's article: the cost of living is going up for everyone yet the impact of that, based on a percentage of an individual's net take-home pay, is greater for those in lower income brackets, as a larger percentage of their money goes to everyday expenses. As an example, as the price of gasoline goes up, it is the same price per gallon for the employed, the unemployed, the minimum wage earner and the college graduate. Possessing a master's degree does not ensure the recipient receives a higher income, it's just a more lucrative (read: expensive) piece of paper to use as leverage to help them get their foot in the door.

Whatever an organization can use to lure young people into the hobby is good for the future of the organization, as eventually those who develop a love for rocketry stick around to become senior members, and is therefore a good idea. Thinking outside of the box is a way to get the discussion going and generate new ideas for growth. I applaud anyone that opens a discussion that can benefit the hobby as a whole, and as far as Mr. Mejia is concerned, he does contribute to hobby rocketry as well as to Rocketry Planet. The guest editorial "bully pulpit" is open to all readers here and everyone is encouraged to follow his example, whether your idea is widely accepted or not�that certainly hasn't stopped him.

Going back to my AMA example, look at this:
AMA: Full Membership Program

Age 19-65 - $58
65 & over - $48 ($10 senior discount)
Under 19 - Free or $15 with magazine
Additional family members - $30

$2,500,000 personal liability insurance coverage
$25,000 Medical Coverage-AD&D Policy ($10,000 Death Benefit)
$1,000 Fire, Theft, and Vandalism coverage
Model Aviation monthly magazine
Access to members only section of website
Ability to fly at thousands of AMA chartered club sites with appropriate club membership
Toll free customer service � 1-800-I-Fly-AMA (435-9262)

With the burgeoning interest in small park flyer aircraft which are often flown outside of sanctioned fields, the AMA now provides low-cost membership and coverage for park flyer enthusiasts.

AMA: Park Pilot Program


$500,000 personal liability insurance coverage
Park Pilot quarterly magazine
Access to the members only section of the website
AMA Park Pilot Partner network to help you get started
$2.5 million liability coverage is available for owners of AMA-designated Park Flying Sites
Toll free customer service � 1-800-I-Fly-AMA (435-9262)
AMA has determined there is a market for 1) youths, 2) youths who want a magazine and 3) people who aren't going to fly large planes at large events. They currently have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000-170,000 members. Granted, they were started in 1936, but certainly the 50 year existence of the NAR should be enough time to get more than 5200 active members. The question for them, and other rocketry organizations, is how. A model rocket only (G or less) membership at a reduced rate would be a good start, and certainly, free youth memberships would tip the membership scales over the edge. We have to think beyond the next launch or the next rocket or the next motor and start thinking about the next generation.
ddmobley on 03-11-2011 06:24 PM
#6 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Flying model rockets isn't hard, particularly, especially at the beginner stage. Buy a kit from Estes that includes the pad, motors, AA battery launcher thing, and follow directions. Go to soccer field, and thanks to the mabel machines you will have success.

Flying model airplanes by remote control is HARD, most especially at the beginning. If you want to fly, one of the easiest ways to do it is to hang out at a club. Clubs regularly support new interest by way of "buddy-box" flying. So you do that for a while, and you like it, and want to keep flying and the club reminds you that in order to fly there you need to be AMA. They also remind you that it's a little crazy to fly at a park without insurance these days.

So right away, at the beginning... the RC hobby gets you into the national club. We get people who "fly in their backyard" at our club who have no idea there is a national organization, let alone two!

We're one of two rocketry clubs serving an area of at least a 100 mile radius. I can think of 5 RC clubs within 45 minutes of each other, plus 2 informal groups that fly near my house. RC is a bigger hobby, more members (just look at the vast number of vendors), and the learning curve puts people into clubs early.

Rocketry is too easy? That's the attitude I hear from some of the people at our public outreach events. They mention flying a few little models in the backyard and laugh that they got stuck in trees. The language and attitude is very similar to shooting fireworks. A $10 rocket kit, flew it three times, that was fun.... There's plenty of them out there, but they aren't gonna buy a magazine, insurance, etc. IMO

I had over 200 bucks invested in my first plane/radio- that's incentive to get with a program.

wingarcher on 03-11-2011 08:34 PM
#7 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
I've been launching rockets for over fifty years. For nearly twenty years, I incorporated rockets in my teaching. The first time I did that I made the mistake of purchasing the rockets before "asking" if I would get reimbursed. I got a great deal for 170 rockets and motors for $600 from Belleville Hobby. The students had a great time but the school said NO and I bit the bullet. The following year I asked the students to bring in money for their rockets and paid < $100 for those students that couldn't come up with the $3.00 for their rocket.

When I moved to the desert teaching in another district, most of the middle school students there were unable to afford their rockets and I tried pairing up to lower my costs. It wasn't long before I had my students building their rockets from scratch for virtually no cost other than the Estes motors. Since I love rocketry, buying the motors for my students was just like I was buying the motors for my rockets since I had given so much advice and help to the students. We would collect gift wrapping tubes for airframes, cereal boxes for fins, plastic trash bags for parachutes, paper rolled and glued for nose cones, etc. My room would be filled with 2-3 foot long rockets. At our first hosting of the district art fair, our school was represented by my students' colorfully painted rockets.

I then moved to the high school and in addition to rocket stuff in the classroom, started an after school rocket club and moved up to plywood fins, ripstop chutes, etc. I joined NAR so we could enter the TARC competition and serve as a mentor for other teams (I am also a Tripoli member since I do experimental sugar motors). My students grew weary of TARC because of the 1 point penalty for every foot off the mark (what is the repeatability of commerical motors?) and they wanted to do experimental higher power rockets. I personnally did not like the fact that the TARC finals are always held in Virginia, giving eastern teams an advantage of not having to raise as much money...there are many places out west where TARC finals could be held, perhaps rotate from Virginia, Kansas, and California.

I discontinued NAR membership since Tripoli was more into what we were doing. I don't know why NAR covers high power rockets if they don't allow research motors. If this is an insurance issue then perhaps an inexpensive NAR membership covering A-G motors and leaving high power to Tripoli might be something to consider. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why there are two organizations covering the same thing. As for the dues, I can see how for some, $60+ a year is alot to ask for and for others it's a drop in the bucket. In this economy, there are a lot of people hurting. It's too bad the dues aren't like 0.1% of your income making students free, and some retirees inexpensive and people making big bucks paying the same percent.

I left teaching in California making a good salary for 10-month year plus great benefits. I thought I was over paid for something I loved doing. I thought some other teachers I worked with were REALLY over paid; one that showed videos while day trading, another on facebook all the time, still another making more than I did and then moonlighting by teaching evening college classes (nothing wrong with that except he simply wrote assignments on the board for his high school students to work on while he corrected his college student's work, another that slept a lot of time, and still another who had the philosophy that "I will start teaching when they pay me more". When I told him to do his students a favor by quitting he stopped talking to me. Don't get me wrong, there are great teachers out there but there are also teachers that shouldn't be teaching.
Sugar Rick on 03-12-2011 02:46 AM
#8 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Thinking on the fly here:

Could the NAR issue a membership to a school or a school program? Possibly give a NAR number to the Science Director at a school?
This is if the cost of membership is really that much of an obstacle. The school's library gets the magazine (good thing), the school gets the insurance coverage.

Just an exercise of the gray matter.

Heck I'd even think of "sponsoring" a school like that if they really needed it. I already donate books to school libraries.

Hotrod Lincoln on 03-12-2011 08:30 AM
#9 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Let me offer some suggestions:

1) Members could offer to subsidize a teacher's membership. Perhaps a fund to be created that members can pay into that teachers can use to request subsidized memberships.

2) Encourage NAR to offer wider insurance coverage for non-members. Strangely TRA seems to have a more inclusive insurance policy. Based on board minutes that I read Pat G. suggested that all youth groups (4H, Scouts, etc.) be covered at TRA launches. This could be expanded to school sponsored groups that launch with NAR sections.

3) NAR could offer a discounted membership without the magazine. Most if not all the content could still be shared as a PDF or other electronic format and this could be emailed or made available on the NAR website to members.
UncleVanya on 03-12-2011 02:09 PM
#10 Re: Article: From a Poor Teacher�s Workdesk: Subsidizing HPR?
Teachers may be "poor" but so are preachers. I am a minister and have 12 years of college, grad, and post-grad education. I make a modest salary, plus benefits. I am in a small church with no other staff so am on call 24/7. My brother has 4 years of college, works in networking, and more than 3 times what I make. I am not complaining. I chose this profession knowing I'd never get rich at it. If money was the biggest issue in my life I would have finished the EE degree I started 44 years ago and been retired by now. We all make our choices.

I am an L2 certified member and pay dues to both NAR and TRA. Sorry, but in this economy I don't have much sympathy for anyone who still has a job but thinks $62 for NAR dues is too much. NAR dues are cheap, but a further benefit is getting to know all the really great people in this hobby. Most of us have to prioritize where we spend our limited resources. I choose rockets (and I'd like a Yaesu FT-5000 Ham radio, a 2011 Hemi Challenger SRT-8, etc., but...)

Larry Lobdell Jr.
llobdelljr on 03-13-2011 01:27 AM
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