- Physical Science - Position and motion of objects
Science Process Skills:
- Interpreting Data
- Mathematics as Communication
- Mathematics as Reasoning
- Mathematical Connections
- Number Sense and Numeration
- Geometry and Spatial Sense
- To estimate the altitude a rocket achieves during flight.
In this activity, students construct simple altitude tracking devices
for determining the altitude a rocket reaches in its flight.
Determining the altitude a rocket reaches in flight is a team activity.
While one group of students prepares and launches a rocket, a second
group measures the altitude the rocket reaches by estimating the angle
of the rocket at its highest point from the tracking station. The
angle is then input into the altitude tracker calculator and the altitude
is read. Roles are reversed so that everyone gets to launch and to
track. Depending upon the number of launches held and whether or not
every student makes their own Altitude Trackers and Altitude Calculators,
the activity should take about an hour or two. While waiting to launch
rockets or track them, students can work on other projects.
Altitude tracking, as used in this activity, can be used with
the Paper Rockets,
and Bottle Rockets
activities and with commercial model rockets. The Altitude Calculator
is calibrated for 5, 15, and 30 meter baselines. Use the 5-meter
baseline for Paper Rockets and 3-2-1 Pop! rockets.
Use the 15-meter baseline for Project X-35, and use the 30-meter
baseline for launching commercial model rockets.
For practical reasons, the Altitude Calculator is designed for angles
in increments of 5 degrees. Younger children may have difficulty
in obtaining precise angle measurements with the Altitude Tracker.
For simplicity's sake, round measurements off to the nearest 5 degree
increment and read the altitude reached directly from the Altitude
Calculator. If desired, you can determine altitudes for angles in
between the increments by adding the altitudes above and below the
angle and dividing by 2. A more precise method for determining altitudes
appears later in the procedures.
A teacher aid or older student should cut out the three windows
in in the Altitude Calculator. A sharp knife or razor and a cutting
surface works best for cutting out windows. The altitude tracker
is simple enough for everyone to make their own, but they can also
be shared. Students should practice taking angle measurements and
using the calculator on objects of known height such as a building
or a flagpole before calculating rocket altitude.
This activity makes use of simple trigonometry to determine the altitude
a rocket reaches in flight. The basic assumption of the activity is
that the rocket travels straight up from the launch site. If the rocket
flies away at an angle other than 90 degrees, the accuracy of the
procedure diminishes. For example, if the rocket climbs over a tracking
station, where the angle is measured, the altitude calculation will
yield an answer higher than the actual altitude reached. On the other
hand, if the rocket flies away from the station, the altitude measurement
will be lower than the actual value. Tracking accuracy can be increased,
by using more than one tracking station to measure the rocket's altitude.
Position a second or third station in different directions from the
first station. Averaging the altitude measurements will reduce individual