The Rocket Project

The Third Form rocket project was an event unlike any other that my form has experienced thus far. As Cistercian students, we frequently hear junior ring speakers, alumni, and older siblings recalling the joys of middle school, especially the rocket project and Texas history trip. These events are significant landmarks of our time here, and it is not a surprise that this month has been very special to the class of ’24 as they heartily enjoyed their rocket project.

We were all anxious when Fr. Mark announced the project; we were anxious building them; and were anxious when we walked along the path to the hidden field to launch them. I will be completely honest with you: we were very anxious. The events leading up to the launch days made people quite nervous, as most of us were intimidated by the procedure. Getting the supplies was the least of our worries, as you simply had to get whatever was on your list; but building the rockets seemed like an insurmountable task.

The handouts given to us by Fr. Mark were very clear and simple instructions, but most people found a way to mess everything up. The actual process varied from rocket to rocket, as different designs had different instructions, some more clear than others. One of the more time-consuming parts was attaching the fins, as regardless of how many your rocket had, you had to put them on one by one. And you had to wait for the glue to fully dry before putting on the next one. Getting the rocket done in time was also a hassle, as we had to keep up with the regular number of tests and quizzes expected of a Cistercian student while we built them. The difficulty of painting the rocket also varied between designs, as some were abnormally complex or included decals. The painting involved several coats of spray paint, which could get messy, especially when you are doing it in your garage close to the cars. Additionally, we had to measure the center of gravity of the rockets using a variety of methods before we could turn them in, and this was not easy for every student. In order to store the rockets properly before the launch, we had to make stands for them out of shoeboxes, as the they could not be stored vertically.

We also had to make a notebook following the whole procedure, a timeline that included all the possible events and plans that could interfere with the building of the rocket, notes of when certain milestones were reached, and we had to collect many handouts Fr. Mark had given us. It is recommended that parents watch over and help their sons with the project in case they need help or get stuck, and this recommendation proved necessary at several points throughout the process. The actual rocket kits themselves do not cost very much but getting all the necessary supplies could be pricey depending on the rocket.

After weeks of toil, the day came. It was time to launch the first rockets. It was incredible to watch, and exhilarating to see your own rocket fly (vertically or horizontally). And there was always a suspense when waiting for the parachutes to deploy, as some parachutes malfunctioned and hit the ground extremely hard. Some people also tried to catch the rockets, which left them to deal with an incredibly angry Fr. Mark, considering that he explicitly said not to. When people got to actually launch their own rockets, they were incredibly nervous, even though all they had to do was follow simple instructions. We also had to make calculations with the data gathered from the launches. There were 2 trackers in the field, each 100 meters away from the rocket, who had to measure the angle the rocket was at when it was at the highest point to use for the calculations. Most of the launches were fine, but others… not so much. Some got stuck in trees, or went into the parking lot. One even landed on the school building! Unfortunately, one of the rockets broke, as a certain student tipped over another student’s rocket, breaking a fin.

Overall, the rocket project was an experience of hard work and toil that nobody in the form will soon forget, as Joshua Reaves (2024) said, “I found it difficult, seeing as I’ve never done this before, but ultimately fun to work on.” Rocket launches just finished at the end of February after many weeks of working on the project. And everybody was excited after an anxious month to see their rockets fly, including for Brendan Herman ’24, who said “Maybe we are the ones who are flying away, and the rocket is staying still.” For our grades’ sakes, we hope it was the other way around!