Though I tend not to get up on a soapbox very often, I decided I would take the opportunity to put forth 10 things I think could help Space Camp gain in quality and popularity.
Some of these may or may not be viable, and none, all, or some of them might actually happen. Nevertheless, here they are.
Things to Improve and Strengthen Space Camp:
Space Camp has had some tough breaks in recent years and despite being on the road to recovery (kudos, by the way), nothing is guaranteed. As such, I felt it my responsibility to make some (hopefully) constructive suggestions as to how (USSRC CEO) Larry Capps and company could bring back the luster to the Space Camp programs. While some suggestions may have a bit more whimsy to them than others, I think all of them are relatively reasonable and could affect Space Camp and the USSRC in very positive ways.
1) Constant Pricing The Early Bird Specials are nice, but wouldn’t an everyday price cheaper than regular tuition but more expensive than $649 (the price of the most recent deal) be better? $649 is quite amazing for a program like ASA or Mach III, but I believe you risk alienating those that end up paying more later. You may not fill up sessions for the summer as quickly, but with a constant price that isn’t as prohibitively expensive as it has been in the past (I shelled out $999 on more than one occasion), I believe attendance rates and margins could both improve. Further, a flat price for any and every program, even if it is a limited time special, doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
2) Extend the EDMs Three 24 hour EDM’s were a nice start, and certainly a welcome surprise, but you need to bring back the 12 hour EDM for everyone and continue to have at least 4 24 hour EDM’s per summer. Further, extending ASA in the summer is nice, but why not do it all year long? And don’t just give campers more free time- they have enough of that at home- but fill it with even more content (a 12 hour EDM is a good start).
3) R-E-S-P-E-C-T I’ve heard from more than one counselor over the years that, although they very much love Space Camp, they can’t help but be a bit dispirited that campers ultimately get looked upon and treated much like cattle. These truly are America’s future astronauts, scientists and engineers. Remember this. And while we’re on the subject of respect, the counselors probably aren’t getting their fair share around the palace. They are your greatest resource and Space Camp’s most public face. Do everything in your power to insure that the friendly smile they always manage to keep on their faces is never a forced one.
4) SpaceCrap.com The website has gone through a few updates in the past few years and remnants from the old look still remain, while other links are broken. Some information is out of date, and the site lacks a consistent look. The site needs to be updated in both format and content. Currently, spacecamp.com provides what I would consider to be the bare minimum of information necessary to convince kids to go to camp, and adults to pay for it. And if the program guide is to continue to get less colorful, less descriptive, and filled with less content, it must be made up for on the web. When I was young, I remember being in awe at the images of what I would get to see and do if I went to camp that were in your brochure. You need a place (either in print or on the web) to display such wonderful sights.
5) Keep Alumni Involved Implement the Space Camp Alumni program. I know there have been some preliminary plans drawn up for it. Do it. Either make it an add on to USSRC membership or another program all together, but make your alumni feel engaged with Space Camp more often then one week every year or two. This will help ensure repeat business.
6) Network Work out a cooperative crossover deal with the Air Force. Hand out Air Force recruitment brochures to AC graduates. In return, have the Air Force refer interested pilots to Aviation Challenge so they can get a taste of authentic military aviation. Such a symbiotic relationship should prove beneficial to both parties.
7) Spatial Entrepreneur Get a Resident Astronaut. You used to have one once. He or she could speak to campers every week on whatever topic proves interesting. Make sure he/she has been into space. More than once, if affordable. Further, include this information in your program guides, promotional materials, etc. This will give credibility to Space Camp practically being a prerequisite to be an astronaut (an angle that could definitely be exploited)!
8) Make a DVD Get Anchor Bay (or anyone else) to reissue SpaceCamp on DVD in a new special edition. Amongst the bonus features, include a documentary focusing on the real Space Camp. Quite frankly, this is the sort of thing that should have been pursued with the first version and probably would have cost you nothing save for a little time and effort. And with the out of print DVD’s going for about $40 on eBay, there must be a market for another release, right?
9) I Wish I had a Space Center in my Backyard Convince MSFC to let Space Campers back in. I understand closing off tours to the general public, but if it makes them feel better, they can check the kids for C-4 before taking them on the tour.
10) Advertise! Start by bringing back the Mission to Malls program (assuming it was at least modestly successful. I liked it, at least). Next, though TV may be too expensive (and I would question its effectiveness), magazine ads might prove to be a good fit. Some suggestions: National Geographic Kids, Boys’ Life, and Popular Science. Try an internet ad campaign also. This should be quite cheap and could prove surprisingly effective.
Well, there you have it. Feel free to send me emails telling me how stupid my ideas are and how crazy I am.