They’re exploding on the scene: the four-wheeling, high-flying and wave-making model vehicles that can inspire awe in even the most seasoned techie. Some are radio-controlled, others battery-powered—and then there are those fueled by explosive material like that used in the space shuttle. Whichever floats your boat, models are an increasingly popular hobby that can be enjoyed by all ages.
Models can also be valuable educational tools, particularly for lessons in the laws of physics: what goes up comes down. If it doesn’t float, it will sink. Anything moving forward will continue to move forward—unless it’s stopped! However, aside from the principles of lift, drag, gravity and thrust, models can teach lessons in patience, persistence and playfulness. There are even clubs and conventions dedicated to model hobbyists, which can be a great starting place if you’re thinking of giving the pastime a try.
Here are a few of the basics to help you decide if model aviation, car racing or boating are for you:
RC Flying – Radio-controlled model airplanes are getting easier to fly. Some are even pre-assembled, and there are styles small enough to be flown indoors. However, the real excitement comes when you construct and put the finishing details on your own aircraft, then head to an RC flying field where the sky is the limit. A radio signal is transmitted from a handheld controller to a receiver built into the plane. Some flying clubs offer instruction where a “buddy” controller also has a transmitter to minimize the risk of a crash. The best bet is to start simply and graduate to more elaborate planes once you’ve mastered the controls.
RC Cars & Trucks – There are as many options among pint-sized vehicles as there are among the life-sized varieties: battery or gas power; on or off-road; toy or hobby grade. Toy remote-controlled cars typically go less than 30 kmph while the “hobby” sort can go much faster; the fastest model car, in fact, was clocked at 260 kmph. Like radio-controlled airplanes, RC cars and trucks require a transmitter and receiver with joystick controllers. The most popular vehicles are RTR (ready to run)—which means they’re on the road, right out of the box.
RC Boats – Speedboats, catamarans, sailboats and even submarines are perfect for water-lovers – at the beach or pool, in salt water or fresh. You can find them all available for purchase ready-to-run or in kits. If you’re truly ready to dive in, download a plan off the Internet and build your own from scratch.
For information on radio-controlled vehicles of every sort—air, land and watercraft—visit a local hobby shop or check the Internet for more information. There, you can even find a directory of local clubs, completed models, kits and other resources.