- Physical Science - Position and motion of objects
- Science and Technology - Abilities of technological design
Science Process Skills:
- Mathematical Connections
- Geometry and Spatial Sense
- To construct and launch a simple bottle rocket.
Working in teams, learners will construct a simple bottle rocket from
2-liter soft drink bottles and other materials.
This activity can stand alone or be incorporated in the activity Project
X-35 that follows. Having the learners work in teams will reduce
the amount of materials required. Begin saving 2-liter bottles several
weeks in advance to have a sufficient supply for your class. You will
need to have at least one bottle rocket launcher. Construct the launcher
described in the previous activity or obtain one from a science or
technology education supply catalog.
The simplest way to construct the rockets is to use low-temperature
electric glue guns that are available from craft stores. High-temperature
glue guns will melt the plastic bottles. Provide glue guns for each
table or set up glue stations in various parts of the room.
Collect a variety of decorative materials before beginning this
activity so students can customize their rockets. When the rockets
are complete, test fly them. Refer to the
Altitude Tracking activity for information on determining
how high the rockets fly. While one group of students launches their
rocket, have another group track the rocket and determine its altitude.
When launching rockets, it is important for the other students
to stand back. Countdowns help everybody to know when the rocket
will lift off. In group discussion, have your students create launch
safety rules that everybody must follow. Include how far back observers
should stand, how many people should prepare the rocket for launch,
who should retrieve the rocket, etc.
Bottle rockets are excellent devices for investigating Newton's Three
Laws of Motion. The rocket will remain on the launch pad until an
unbalanced force is exerted propelling the rocket upward (First Law).
The amount of force depends upon how much air you pumped inside the
rocket (Second Law). You can increase the force further by adding
a small amount of water to the rocket. This increases the mass the
rocket expels by the air pressure. Finally, the action force of the
air (and water) as it rushes out the nozzle creates an equal and opposite
reaction force propelling the rocket upward (Third Law).
The fourth instruction on the Student Page asks the students to
press modeling clay into the nose cone of the rocket. Placing 50
to 100 grams of clay into the cone helps to stabilize the rocket
by moving the center of mass farther from the center of pressure.
For a complete explanation of how this works, see Practical
Refer to the Student Page for procedures and optional directions for
making paper helicopters. See the extension section below for details
on how to use the helicopters.
Evaluate each bottle rocket on its quality of construction. Observe
how well fins align and attach to the bottle. Also observe how straight
the nose cone is at the top of the rocket. If you choose to measure
how high the rockets fly, compare the altitude the rockets reach with
their design and quality of the construction.
- Challenge rocket teams to invent a way to attach a parachute
to the rocket that will deploy on the rocketís way back down.
- Parachutes for bottle rockets can be made from a plastic bag
and string. The nose cone is merely placed over the rocket and
parachute for launch. The cone needs to fit properly for launch
or it will slip off. The modeling clay in the cone will cause
the cone to fall off, deploying the parachute or paper helicopters,
after the rocket tilts over at the top of its flight.
- Extend the poster board tube above the rounded end of the bottle.
This will make a payload compartment for lofting various items
with the rocket. Payloads might include streamers or paper helicopters
that will spill out when the rocket reaches the top of its flight.
Copy and distribute the page on how to make paper helicopters.
Ask the students to identify other possible payloads for the rocket.
If students suggest launching small animals with their rockets,
discuss the purpose of flying animals and the possible dangers
if they are actually flown.
- Conduct flight experiments by varying the amount of air pressure
and water to the rocket before launch. Have the students develop
experimental test procedures and control for variables.