After students have designed their bottle rockets as part of the assessment for Newton's Second and Third Law of Motion, I take an entire afternoon to have students build, launch, modify, and launch again their bottle rockets. This process could be done over a single lab period, a series of classes, or a single class, depending on the time you can afford. Students can build rockets in groups or individually, and design-launch-assess-modify cycle can be completed as many times as you like.
- Experience the scientific method and engineering design process in-action
- Tape (duct tape is especially good)
- Extra plastic bottles
- Sturdy plastic for fins (from salad containers, plastic folders, extra soda bottles, etc.)
- Thin cardboard scraps
- Large container of water (for launches)
- Air pump (a basic bicycle pump will work)
- Reflection Sheets
- Writing utensils
- Rocket Launcher (pdf) These instructions for building a bottle rocket launcher are provided by NASA
- This is a great resource for basic bottle rocket construction.
I typically have students start off inside to build their rockets. I have different rocket fin templates available for them to trace, and each student brings in a bottle or two. Students have one hour to build their rocket, although this part could be done at home.
After students have finished building (they also typically like to decorate and name their rockets), we head out to the public park for launch. You'll need a large cooler of water, an air pump (the design for the launch is attached, it's fairly easy to build and much cheaper than ordering a launch from a company), extra tape, scissors, plastic, etc. for rocket modification.
During the launches I ask students to watch everyone's launches so they can see how different designs affect height and straightness of flight. Then they make modifications and re-launch, with the hopes of achieving maximum height.
I also pass out a reflection sheet that students can either complete during or after the launches. The primary purpose of the reflection is to formalize their thought process about different designs and outcomes.
Fin Design 1
Fin Design 2
Fin Design 3
Launch Reflection (pdf)
Launch Reflection (doc)