- Science as Inquiry
- Physical Science - Position and motion of objects
- Science and Technology - Abilities of technological design
- Unifying Concepts and Processes - Evidence, models, and explanation
Science Process Skills:
- Collecting Data
- Making Models
- Interpreting Data
- Controlling Variables
- Defining Operationally
- Mathematics as Problem Solving
- Mathematics as Reasoning
- Mathematical Connections
- Geometry and Spatial Sense
- Statistics and Probability
- To design, construct, and fly paper rockets that will travel
the greatest distance possible across a floor model of the solar
In this activity, students construct small flying rockets out of paper
and propel them by blowing air through a straw.
After demonstrating a completed paper rocket to the students, have
them construct their own paper rockets and decorate them. Students
may work individually or in pairs. Because the rockets are projectiles,
make sure students wear eye protection.
When students complete the rockets, distribute straws. Select
a location for flying the rockets. A room with open floor space
or a hallway is preferable. Prepare the floor by marking a 10-meter
test range with tape measures or meter sticks laid end to end. As
an alternative, lay out the planetary target range as shown on the
next page. Have students launch from planet Earth, and tell them
to determine the farthest planet they are able to reach with their
rocket. Use the planetary arrangement shown on the next page for
laying out the launch range. Pictures for the planets are found
at the below on this page. Enlarge these pictures as desired. Record
data from each launch on the Paper Rocket Launch Record Report form.
The form includes spaces for data from three different rockets.
After the first launches, students should construct new and "improved"
paper rockets and attempt a longer journey through the solar system.
Encourage the students to try different sized rockets and different
shapes and number of fins. For younger students, create a chart
listing how far each planet target is from Earth. Older students
can measure these distances for themselves.
Although the activity uses a solar system target range, the Paper
Rockets activity demonstrates how rockets fly through the atmosphere.
A rocket with no fins is much more difficult to control than a rocket
with fins. The placement and size of the fins is critical to achieve
adequate stability while not adding too much weight. More information
on rocket fins can be found in
Materials and Tools:
- Student sheets:
- Scrap bond paper
- Cellophane tape
- Sharpened fat pencil
- Milkshake straw (slightly thinner than pencil)
- Eye protection
- Metric ruler
- Masking tape or Altitude trackers
- Pictures of the Sun and planets
Making and Launching Paper Rockets:
- Distribute the materials and construction tools to each student.
- Students should each construct a rocket as shown in the instructions
on the student sheet.
- Tell students to predict how far their rocket will fly and record
their estimates in the test report sheet. After test flying the
rocket and measuring the distance it reached, students should
record the actual distance and the difference between predicted
and actual distances on the Paper Rockets Test Report.
- Following the flight of the first rocket, students should construct
and test two additional rockets of different sizes and fin designs.