Albuquerque ‘Star Destroyers’ present rocket at national competition

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Back in sixth grade, Merek Sievert and the guys formed the Star Destroyers rocket team in their free time.

With a sponsor supporting them and Merek’s dad as an advisor, the future engineers prepared for liftoff.

“We did it like in his house and garage, just making stuff because he has a bunch of equipment. We just made it in a garage and we tested like out here all the time,” said Aiden Kim, an eighth-grade team member.

The Star Destroyers say they learned everything outside of the classroom. They also built and tested the rocket in their own free time.

“I think coding, in total, took probably about 20 hours, just programming every single variation and stuff,” Merek said.

In the first year, their flight was good enough for Nationals – but they didn’t quite stick the landing.

“Our first year with Merek and two other people, we actually got basically a pretty good flight. And then when we were going to take out the egg to show the judge, we accidentally dropped the egg before she could see it. So we didn’t get like a qualifying flight for that,” Aiden said.

This year, their rocket flew to 850 feet and landed in 45 seconds.

The egg also survived and the Star Destroyers qualified for Nationals.

In May, they competed in Virginia as one of the top teams in the U.S. However, they ran into some challenges during their test flight.

“It got stuck in a tree so we almost didn’t find it but we got it down and we decided to not do another one because of the worry that we might get stuck in a tall tree and can’t get it down,” they explained.

Still, they beat 34 other teams. They also presented their rocket to NASA on Capitol Hill.

“They spoke to, kind of, the head engineer of NASA. He spent 20 minutes talking with them and his questions were a lot more relevant,” advisor Jason Sievert said. “They explained the rocket and seeing him go, ‘This is exactly what we need! We need you people to figure out how to go to the moon!’ That was the cool part.”

“It was super cool. We were like, oh, that’s super cool. And they were like, they were really nice. And they’re like, ‘Your design’s awesome,’ and We were like, ‘Thank you!'” Kennedy Sievert, Merek’s sister said.

KOB 4 went out to where the team tested the rocket. The rocket flew so high and fast, we couldn’t keep up with it.

The team found the parachutes and brought them back. Then, they gathered around and listened to the beeps.

They determined the rocket flew 1,027 feet high and landed in around 44 seconds. That altitude would put it as the 23rd tallest building in the U.S.

Now, next year’s rules are out – and the team is focused.

“We’re just planning on continuing it until we have to stop or we graduate high school,” Aiden said.

“Yea, I’m gonna do an all-girls team the year you guys graduate, if I get enough people who are interested,” Kennedy quipped back.

The students went to Desert Ridge Middle School in the 2022-23 school year.

The full team is Merek Sievert, Kennedy Sievert, Micah Gregson, Greer Olmi-Sanchez, Aiden (Euiryeon) Kim, Ian Hernandez and Dylan Chandler. Merek, Micah, Aiden, Ian and Dylan are going into ninth grade while Kennedy and Greer are going into eighth grade.