Cedar Amateur Astronomers, (CAA), recently received a grant from Rockwell Collins administered by Rockwell Collins Retiree Volunteers (RCRV). This grant was for the purpose of “volunteer recruitment, retention and training.” CAA, a non-profit organization, manages a million-dollar facility known as the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center (EIOLC) located on the Linn County Conservation’s Palisades-Dows nature preserve south-east of Cedar Rapids. The astronomical observatory is manned entirely by volunteers, there is no paid staff, so obviously volunteers are a vital part of the operation of the observatory. CAA officers Greg Frohner (President) and John Leeson (Vice President and RCRV member) accepted the grant award at the RCRV board meeting in June, thanking the RCRV review team for their careful consideration of their application. This grant was very timely for CAA.


Over the last ten years the Learning Center portion of the facility has had several additions in the way of interactive exhibits, aiming to expand the services of the EIOLC toward expanded visitor involvement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Popular exhibits of "Lessons in Light", "Stellarium Planetarium Software Stations", "Size of the Universe" touch screen display, and "Our Sun and How it Works" are providing interactive learning experiences that are related to astronomy and space science, but not directly involving telescopes or observing the night sky. These activities are important because visitors may not be able to observe the sky through telescopes if they visit during the daytime, as many younger school children do, or if the sky is cloudy when they arrive for scheduled or reserved events. Astronomy itself is described by President Frohner as the “embodiment of STEM” due to its deep involvement in all aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.. When combined with the current and planned interactive exhibits the EIOLC is becoming a STEM Center, a new generation of ‘Science Center’.

Outdoor PlanetariumIt is no longer sufficient to have a number of astronomy enthusiasts and telescope operators manning the EIOLC for visitors to the center. The EIOLC receives between 2500 and 3000 visitors a year, generally about one-third children and students and two-thirds adults. As mentioned above, oftentimes the sky is too cloudy or conditions not optimal for these visitors to view the sky; they always receive a tour of the sophisticated and valuable telescope facilities however. When they cannot fully appreciate the astronomical experience, they can participate in the interactive exhibits that support phases of the astronomical sciences or tour the other static displays of pictures, astronomy news, or other items of interest. For purposes of assisting visitors in enjoying the full capability of the facility, we often need not only our telescope operators and astronomy enthusiasts, but volunteers acting as hosts, exhibit docents, and organizational representatives. The CAA has a membership with a wide variety of experience and interests. We plan to utilize the grant money to extend our reach for volunteers into a larger portion of this membership as well as reaching outside of the association into a greater pool of available volunteers. Anyone with an interest in meeting people, in STEM, or who believes exposure of our children to more science related activities could help with our mission. You can contact CAA to explore volunteering opportunities by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or attend any of our public events and meet Greg or John, who are nearly always there. 

More information is available at the website: https://cedar-astronomers.org

EIOLC Campus

A number of RCRV members are involved with Cedar Amateur Astronomers (CAA) in the operation of the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center (EIOLC).

The partnership between Cedar Amateur Astronomers and Linn County Conservation recently received a grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation for the development of an Outdoor Planetarium which will be located at the site of the EIOLC at 1365 Ivanhoe Road. An Outdoor Planetarium uses the actual night sky with a presentation about the visible objects in the sky using a green laser pointer. The audience sees a narrow green line from the presenter to the astronomical object so there is no confusion about what is being described.

EIOLC Outdoor Planetarium Construction of the Outdoor Planetarium will begin this Spring and is expected to be completed by Fall of 2018. The design and specific location of the Outdoor Planetarium was determined as a result of trial presentations performed by CAA to identify the seating, lighting, and audio requirements for nighttime presentations. The permanent seating is planned to accommodate 50 to 60 guests. The picture on the right shows a bird's eye view of the EIOLC campus, with the oval on the bottom showing the location of the new Outdoor Planetarium.

Cedar Amateur Astronomers provides 12 free Public Events, and an average of 60 Private Events at the EIOLC each year for community organizations, scouting groups, church groups, public and private schools, colleges, and universities.

Information regarding CAA and events at the EIOLC is available at cedar-astronomers.org. This web site includes a listing of the 12 free Public Programs at the EIOLC during 2018.

Almost everyone has a cell phone today and we regard achievements like the recent Space X launch and landing as a matter of fact. Yet to get to where we are today has been a herculean level of technological advances.
July 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The risks back then were high, but with the technical skills, desire, passion and innovativeness of US designers, there were fewer failures than would be statistically predicted. Collins Radio Company, lead by Arthur Collins, was an important part of that success story. 
  • All space English voice audio and video transmissions have been on Collins equipment. 
  • Collins equipment never had any operational failures in the space program. 
  • Collins provided much of the tracking support for the space missions. (If you would like to see a good movie about the tracking support rent “The Dish”). 
The Arthur A. Collins Legacy Association (AACLA) volunteers are working to preserve the Collins Legacy in history. Part of this effort is collecting artifacts, conducting personal interviews and getting stories about Collins Radio culture and contributions to technology and, in this case, the Moon Landing. 
AACLA is in the process of producing a series of documentaries, with formats defined to be useable by TV stations and streaming, to celebrate the Moon Landing anniversary and to inform the public about the culture of the Collins Radio Company and its contributions, not only in the space program, but in areas like Arthur’s Attic Lab, Communications, Avionics Systems, use of modems for high speed transmission of digital data and GPS. Additionally, there are some very unique programs and people rarely heard about outside the electronics community that illustrates the leadership role and culture of Collins Radio Company that will be included. 
Associated with this celebration, the Arthur A. Collins Legacy Association (AACLA), and the Rockwell Collins Museum are looking for Collins retirees that worked on the Apollo equipment. Contact Terry Lamb at 319-573-2654 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have experience on the Apollo equipment and want to be included in the Apollo Celebration.
If you would like more information about our efforts, go to the two websites shown below and learn more about Collins history and ways you might get involved. A listing of AACLA Board and Volunteers are shown below. 
Terry Lamb President, 319-573-2654
Michael Collins Vice President, 530-265-8046
Rod Blocksome Secretary, 319-329-7676
Alicia Jackson Treasurer
Becky Woodward RC Liaison & Legal Counsulting, Board Member
Mike Hynek RC Museum Curator, 319-573-6024
Keith Erickson Board Member
Jim Shanklin Board Member
Myron Wilson Board Member
Lawrence Robinson Board Member
Jim Stitzinger Board Member
Don Stulken Volunteer Coordinator, Grant Writer, Board Member
Jim Jones Renovation Volunteer
Jules Yoder Renovation Volunteer
Larry Tjaden Volunteer, Website
Gordon Fabian Volunteer

RCRV Letterhead



RCRV Email Newsletter  -- February 2018

Part of the mission for RCRV is to provide useful information to retirees from Rockwell Collins. Newsletters will be published periodically through the year to support this mission.

The RCRV Charitable Grant Program is continuing in 2018

This year’s community grant program will be available for non-profits who serve the underprivileged and/or people with disabilities. Grant awards can be used for volunteer recruitment, retention and training to help the non-profit effectively and efficiently complete its mission. If you are involved with a non-profit organization that can potentially benefit from this grant program, please pass this information on to them. Note that each grant request must be endorsed by an RCRV member.

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Requesting HRA Reimbursement from OneExchange

Rockwell Collins provides a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) of up to $669 per retiree or spouse that is currently on Medicare. This HRA fund is used to reimburse the retiree for Medicare premiums for Drug Plans, Supplement policies, Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Part B.

To be eligible for this fund, the retiree must get at least one policy through OneExchange. This article provides information on how to request the reimbursement of leftover funds if your insurance policies did not use up the entire $669 fund.

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Rockwell Collins retirees may have their medical insurance subsidized through a “Health Reimbursement Account” (HRA)  that provides $669 per year.  In order to be eligible for this HRA, at least one Medicare insurance policy (other than Part A and Part B) must be purchased through OneExchange.  With the HRA, you pay for your insurance premium each month, and you are reimbursed monthly from the HRA for the cost of the premium.  You will be reimbursed until the HRA fund of $669 is exhausted.   In general, you are eligible for the HRA funding as long as you get at least one Medicare insurance policy (e.g.  Supplement, Drug Plan or Advantage Plan) through OneExchange. 

You can request reimbursement for the Part B premium that comes out of your social security check even though you do not get this through OneExchange.  In many cases this is the easiest way to get the reimbursement.

Getting a reimbursement from last year’s HRA remainder

If your insurance policies through OneExchange for last year did not use up the entire $669, you can still request that the remaining amount be reimbursed to you by claiming the premium for Medicare Part B that was deducted from your Social Security check.  You have until March 31 to request this reimbursement. This would happen, for example, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan with a premium that is less than $55 per month. 

To claim this left-over money from last year, fill out and mail in the OneExchange “Reimbursement Form” along with a copy of last year’s "Form SSA-10909 Social Security Benefit Statement"  which lists the total deduction for Medicare Part B for last year.  You typically receive this Social Security Benefit statement in the middle of January.  The "Amount Requested"  field on the form is filled in ideally with the amount still still remaining in your HRA account.   If you don't know the amount,  put in $669,  and you will receive the amount still remaining.

The Reimbursement form is availalbe for print here.  You can also use the personalized Reimbursedment Request Form that you received from OneExchange or that you downloaded from the OneExchange website.  



Getting a full reimbursement for this year using the Medicare Part B Premium   

 If you know at the beginning of a year that you will not use all the available HRA funds on your policies through OneExchange,   you can use the “Recurring Premium Reimbursement Form”.  Using this form,  you can request that the HRA funds be applied to the Medicare Part B premiums that are deducted from your social security check every month. To claim the  money for this year, fill out and mail in the OneExchange “Recurring Reimbursement Form” along with a copy of the current year’s “Social Security Administration Important Information” letter which lists your new monthly benefit amount and the monthly deduction for Medicare Part B.   This is mailed out by Social Security during November or December of the prior year.

The Recurring Reimbursement form is available for print out here. When you print out this form, the second page provides a detailed guide on how to fill out the form.   You can also use the personalized Reimbursedment Request Form that you received from OneExchange.