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ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Back in sixth grade, Merek Sievert and his men formed the Star Destroyers rocket team in their spare time.

With a sponsor supporting them and Merek’s father as a mentor, future engineers set out to raise them.

“Like we did at home and in the garage, we’re making stuff because he has a lot of tools. We made it in the garage and we were always testing here,” said eighth-grade team member Aiden Kim.

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

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

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

“The first year we started with Merek and two other guys, we basically had a good flight. And when we were about to take the egg out to show it to the judge, we suddenly dropped the egg before she saw it. So we didn’t get a flight that qualified for that.” Aiden said.

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

The egg survived and Star Destroyers qualified for nationals.

In May, they competed in Virginia as one of the top teams in the United States, however, they encountered some challenges during their test flight.

“We almost missed him because he was stuck in a tree, but we decided not to go down and get stuck in a tall tree because we were worried we wouldn’t be able to get him down,” he explained.

They still beat 34 other teams. They also presented their rocket to NASA on Capitol Hill.

They spoke to NASA’s chief engineer in kind. He spent 20 minutes with them and the questions were very helpful,” said counselor Jason Sievert. When they saw the rocket going, they explained, ‘This is what we need! We need people to figure out how to go to the moon!’ That was the good part. “

“It was great. We were like, oh, that’s great. And they were, like, so cute. And they’re like, ‘Your design is awesome,’ and we’re like, ‘Thank you!’ We were like that.” Merek’s sister, Kennedy Sievert, said.

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

The team finds the parachutes and brings them back. Then they gathered and listened to the voices.

They determined that the rocket had a height of 1,027 feet and landed in 44 seconds. That height makes it the 23rd tallest building in America

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

“We plan to keep going until we stop or until we graduate from high school,” Ayden said.

“Yeah, I’ll do an all-girls team the year you guys graduate, if I get enough people interested,” Kennedy replied.

The students moved 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 (Eurion) Kim, Ian Hernandez and Dylan Chandler. Merek, Micah, Aiden, Ian, and Dylan are in ninth grade, while Kennedy and Greer are in eighth grade.