Geek Rockets

We don’t spend all our time sat behind computers coding away, we do that a lot, but we also take time out to have some fun. The Emerging Technology Services group in Hursley is full of budding rocket scientists, so when it came time to do a team building event, rocketeering seemed a good fit.

The group busily spent the previous week in their workshops, sheds or at the dining room tables constructing rockets. The rules were simple. They had to be self propelled and the only fuels allowed were baking soda, vinegar, air and water. Most people went for air and water rockets, but I went for a vinegar and baking soda powered device. The buzz created in the corridors was pretty impressive, even before we had arrived at launch day.

my rocket

Thursday arrived and finally it was time to put our rocket science to the test. After a few beers and a barbecue there was a safety briefing and then we took turns to launch from a local pub (which has a very big field). Andy and Chris were the most successful rocket builders and had clearly spent a lot of time in research and development phases. Andy even managed to clear the field completely.

chris\' rocket

It definitely worked as a team building event. We had a good time, nobody got injured, I nearly became IBM’s first person in orbit, but apart from that it did help the team get closer together.

– Darren Shaw (Emerging Technology Services, IBM Hursley)

21 thoughts on “Geek Rockets

  1. As a participant in the whole event, I can say this was an unsually good one. Some works events can be all a bit painful, but get the right people doing the right event and it is priceless. In a different life in a different group we tended to use counter-strike and quake as our post hours team bonding. It worked very well given the group that we were.
    I am not sure if there is some mapping of suitable team events to personality types, but maybe that is what needs to happen in future?

  2. That does look like amazing fun. What a great way to encourage geek to let of creative steam. I don’t know about “IBM’s first person in orbit” Darren. I heard you got covered in vinegar. 🙂

  3. Thats right, he smelt like a chip after that 🙂 (don’t tell him though, he was sensitive about his new found vinegary smell)

  4. What a great laugh.
    I particularly liked Emma’s water cooler bottle rocket (I checked and it holds approx 18.5 litres when full – so takeoff weight would have been about 6Kg!).
    I think if we ever do it again, there ought to be a rule against buying prebuilt rockets (this is hypocritical as I bought+brought one) – but the home built rokit and other rockets were just fantastic.
    Apparently the world record is somewhere over 1500ft, and the pressure required to get it there was somewhere just over 1100psi. There’s always next year, eh?


  5. I organized the “rocket science” event for the department. Other managers have heard about it and asked me how I got it approved. I thought it might help others to organize fun events if I posted the risk assesment for the rocket science event. Well, here it is:

    The basis of any risk assesment is that you’ve given the potential risks some thought and put some mitigation into place for things that you could reasonably think might go wrong. You don’t have to think of everything and as long as you decide what’s the most important thing you’re trying to mitigate (people getting injured, in this case) then don’t boil the ocean.

    All you’ve got to keep in mind is “How am I going to look?” if it all ended up in court and Darren’s Mum & Dad wanted to know how he’d got scarred by the tri nitro toluene mixture that he’d been brewing in his glass flask with a portable bunsen burner in a field in Hampshire. Maybe you don’t have to make it personal, maybe it’s better to think “How is IBM going to look?” but that’s why you get the document reviewed and signed off by more senior managers.

    Anyway, the point of this comment was to encourage others to do some different fun events, they have a huge positive impact upon morale.

  6. amazing fun if we ever do it again, there ought to be a rule against buying as you could reasonably think might go wrong

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  8. ePredator has made a VERY good point .. “Some works events can be all a bit painful, but get the right people doing the right event and it is priceless. ” The right event for the people in the team. I’ve noticed that many managers go about team building backwards. Especially in the bigger businesses and corporations. They find a program that fits their budget, and then push their people through it. Rather, as ePred has so rightly implied, the first question ought to be, “What do my people need?” And only then go out and find a corporate team building program that will meet the NEEDS OF THE TEAM. The result of this approach will be people willingly taking part in the teambuilding event, and genuine bonding and learning.

  9. Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky, Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.

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