I was asked to lead a small rocket build and launch event. In preparation for this, I looked at several "Skill Level 1" kits from various manufacturers. Estes is the usual "obvious" case for such classes, but I was a little unhappy that all of their beginners kits seem to have plastic fin units. I really wanted to give the kids a taste of working with real wood fins. As such, I emailed Jim Flis and asked about the possibility of getting one of his Jig-Tech rockets in builk for our class.
If you're not familiar with the Jig-Tech fins, they're really awesome - basically the fins fit together perfectly, and are easilly glued up to make your own fin unit. So it's sort of the best of both worlds - you get the instant alignment of the plastic fin unit rockets, but the kids get a taste of working with balsa.
Jim steered me toward one of his newer creations, the "DooDad" rocket. This rocket seemed to fit the bill perfectly - it's a "minimum diameter" rocket (meaning the engine fits right into the body tube), yet it has an engine hook. This makes for a quicker, easier build than larger body tube rockets, and the kids were excited to find out it would also mean higher flights due to the lower weight and reduced body drag.
Construction of this rocket went very well. In all but one sample case, the fins fit together perfectly (one rocket had a slightly warped fin, which made it a bit tricky to stay glued up). This group was particularly young, but we had dads helping their kids (one or two kids per dad) so the kids had guidance while I led them step by step through the build.
The instructions are very well laid out and illustrated, and done as well or better than any other rocket kit I've ever assembled. We only deviated from the instructions in a few cases, based on my past build experience:
But I just want to emphesize that the instructions were VERY good and complete, and these devations were by my choice, the rocket could have been built just fine as speced out by the instructions.
Gluing up the fin units went very well, and although we rushed the dry time (between gluing up the fin unit and attaching it to the body tube) quite a bit more than if I had been doing this alone at home, things still worked great.
Being a beginner's kit, our time frame, and a very young class, we did minimal finishing. As noted above, I had the class keep the nose cones separate so they could be sprayed and dried away from the body tube. Most of the dads/kids chose to simply spray the body tube another color. A few attempted to carefully spray the body and fin sections different colors, without any masking.
Given the time frame, we did not do any fin or body spiral filling, nor did we sand between coats of paint, at least on-site. A few of the class noted took the rockets home for further finishing - several girls did theirs up in stickers and sequins!
The kit contains no decals, which is fine by me since it allows the price to be kept low.
Most of the group came back about a month later (June '12) for a group launch. I started them out with A8-3's for the first flight. Every single rocket flew perfectly, all of them recovered close to the pad. For the second flights, we upped it to a B6-4, and again, all the rockets had great flights. A couple people had their nose cones separate due to build error but both pieces were recovered, and the rockets suffered no damage.
I have since flown this rocket with a C6-5 and it is a fun little rocket to launch, giving decent height despite the weight of the wood fin unit.
The kit includes a rather short streamer. I'm honestly not sure how much resistance it provides, but as noted above all of our rockets were recovered in perfect shape. This rocket is tough enough to "tumble recover", and the body tube does not provide much room for a longer streamer.
A small parachute could be tried, but again, I don't think it's necessary, and there is minimal body tube space to pack one in.
I was very happy with this kit, and the rest of the class seemed to be pleased as well. A few of the dads had done model rocketry in the past - none had heard of FlisKits. All seemed to be happy with the product.
This is my third kit from Fliskits so I had high expectations of how the quality would be. As I expected, I was not let down. As a bonus, Jim Fliss offvers VERY nice bulk pricing for groups such as ours.
The kit was perfect for our needs, and I'm very glad Jim recommended it. It's particularly nice when the owner of the company will chat with you about your needs ahead of time.