Wednesday 25 April 2012

Norway Update

After two hours of deliberations the judges still couldn’t make up their minds, so everyone’s been sent back to the hotels. We’ll gather again in half an hour to see …

[UPDATE] The results came in: 3rd - Portugal, 2nd - Greece, 1st - Scotland. No prize for the Limerick team but the students learned an enormous amount the last few days. Well done to all the teams and thanks to the organisers.

Launching Satellites in the Arctic

T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and … misfire?!

From the moment the first rocket launch (with the CanSats for the Austrian and Norwegian teams) misfired yesterday morning, we knew we were in for a most interesting day out at the rocket range.
Andoya Rocket Launch
Although we had to endure four hours of uncertainty as to whether we would get our Cansat back (because the retrievers on the snow-mobiles couldn’t find it), the day ended in joy for the Irish/Crescent team. Read the full story here and here.

Because of space restrictions at the rocket range conferencePre-launch Preparations room, I had to spend most of Monday back at the hotel while the teams gave their introductory presentations (I understand our team did quite well). I went over in the evening to offer technical assistance with the pre-launch preparations and checks.

Yesterday was the actual launches. Our team was very calm and confident, having done all the necessary preparations beforehand. There were complications with most launches: as mentioned earlier, the first launch misfired and we had to wait for an hour while the rocket was inspected before re-launch. By the end of the day, a number of Cansats had been damaged in the launch: in one case, a pair of Cansats collided with each other during ejection from the rocket with one Cansat breaking the servomotor arm of the other while accidentally switching itself off in the process! The Spanish Cansat was last spotted 0.7km above the earth – never to be seen again (which is very unlucky since the same thing happened to them last year as well).
Ready for Lift-offOur launch went very well and, while we didn’t get the Cansat back till much later, got good data readings and got right to the analysis. Thanks to our Excel templates being all ready beforehand, we had useful graphs and information within a matter of minutes.

The data analysis and presentation preparation went on into the night, though not too late (by engineering standards, that is!) The Cansat came back almost perfectly intact and in reusable condition, so not much explanation of what went wrong etc… Our accelerometer gave us enough information to build a narrative picture of the launch and then we did some work on data loss analysis and suggested improvements in future launches etc.

The presentations are still on-going though the Irish team finished its post-campaign presentation about an hour ago. Gearoíd, Eimear, James and Gavin did very well and got only one, relatively minor, post-presentation question from the judges. Fingers crossed for the results…

If you haven't done so already, take a look at the Crescent Cansat team blog at

Monday 23 April 2012

Getting to Norway

No pictures yet from me, I’m afraid. Though I’ve been clicking away on my phone camera, I forgot to bring a USB cable with me to upload them; so you’ll have to wait until I get back to Limerick.

We left Limerick yesterday morning around 8 a.m. for Dublin. I took the M7 Express along with Anne O’Dea, the other staff member accompanying the team; while the students were dropped off at Dublin Airport by one of the parents. From Dublin, we first flew to Oslo; then had to go through customs and check-in again for the domestic flight to Bodø. The stopover at Oslo gave us enough time to have a pizza.

At Bodø, another stopover (this time doing a rehearsal of the presentation for this morning), before a short flight in a twin-propeller to Andenes, Andøya Island, Norway – within the Arctic Circle. Although the light was fading (though not completely – the sun hadn’t completely set even by the time we went to bed around one in the morning!), the views from the plane of snow-covered mountains rising from the sea were simply stunning.

Then a quick sandwich before dumping luggage in rooms and last-minute preparation work for today’s presentation and inspection of kits.

Read the students’ POV here.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Off to the Arctic

Well, technically, Andøya is just south of the Arctic circle. But that’s where I will be over the next week with Crescent College’s own Team Rocket. Back in November, we won the Irish national Cansat competition to design a Coke can-sized satellite and now we will be competing against teams from Austria, Denmark, Spain, Portugal etc.

You can check out the students’ blog here.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Vegging Out


    verb /vej/ 
    Relax to the point of complete inertia

I’ve spent most of the last week vegging out in the community (when I’m not at or preparing for or reflecting on the Holy Week liturgies, that is.) A bit of reading, plenty of DVDs and box-sets, some surfing (of the electronic variety).

Working in a school environment where I am constantly on the go, it’s easy not to notice just how much of my energy derives from the young people I am constantly in contact with.

So, holidays come as something of a shock to the system. A welcome shock, mind you, but a shock nevertheless. During term-time, there’s almost not enough time in the day. There’s class preparation, correction, organising school events and trips, being present at or participating in extracurricular activities etc. etc. (but mostly class preparation for me).

Weekends can be quite busy too. In the last few months, there have been a number of meetings of Jesuits on during the weekends, which can mean a bit of travelling. Jesuit life is not for the couch potatoes!

There is great joy to be found in working with young people. The energy and enthusiasm, as I’ve indicated, is infectious. But their openness and idealism can be quite refreshing too – especially in these hard times. Which is not to say I shouldn’t keep my eyes open! Discipline is the least pleasant aspect of my ministry, but an extremely necessary one. All that energy, if not channelled into constructive activities, can be wasted at best, or turned to destructive purposes at worst.

In reminiscing about his time at Manresa, St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that God dealt with him as a teacher instructing his pupil (Autobiography, Chapter III). Maybe that’s why Jesuits are so involved in education – the roots of our spirituality lie in a student-teacher (or, in Indian terms, guru-shishya) relationship with God. God not only gives us gifts and graces, but also teaches us what to do with them.

Next week, I’m back to Britain for a meeting of younger Jesuits; and then it’s back to school for the final, hectic term before the summer break – so I hope to enjoy my “vegging” time as best I can for now!

Friday 6 April 2012

Via Crucis

In English, ‘the Way of the Cross’.
I’m preparing the Way of the Cross service for use at the Midwestern Regional Hospital here in Dooradoyle this evening. Composing a prayer service isn’t easy at the best of times, but this one is proving harder than usual. Perhaps it has to do with the subject matter itself – the Passion of the Lord.
Good Friday asks us to enter into the mystery of Suffering itself, as taken into the heart of the Triune God by the Incarnate Son. It’s only human to want to avoid suffering, to avoid even thinking about it – much less contemplating it. Christianity would be so much easier without the Cross. Or, if there is to be a Cross, have it be incidental to the life and message of the Christ.
Alas, no such luck. The Father revealed to us in the Son is one who is glorified through the Cross. Funny expression that – ‘glorify’. Jesus uses the terms ‘glory’ or ‘glorify’ 22 times in John’s Gospel; almost always pointing to his imminent Sacrifice. Why is that?

I can’t say. About a billion Catholics will attend the Good Friday liturgy today and venerate the crucifix. Churches tend to be full; and some attending will not have been inside a church for some time. What is it about the Suffering God that draws us in so?

Update: Over on the Jesuit scholastics blog, Catching Fire, I've put up the text of the Way of the Cross reflections I composed.

Monday 19 March 2012

St. Patrick’s Day [Photoblog]

Pictures from the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Limerick city centre:-

2012-03-17 11.09.292012-03-17 11.53.082012-03-17 12.42.582012-03-17 12.51.442012-03-17 13.00.332012-03-17 13.23.26

A few from the Indian community here in Limerick, featuring a number from God’s Own Country:-

2012-03-17 13.31.252012-03-17 13.32.23

The variety of GAA clubs, charities, businesses, Beavers/Guides etc. etc. gives one a sense of Limerick life. For me personally, a great part of the day was looking around and recognising students and teachers from the Crescent.