Part of Unit: Projects-Beginning
Lesson Plan Overview / Details
In this concluding lesson, students design, build, and launch a rocket made out of an empty 2-liter soda bottle and cardboard fins. A simulation program such as RocSim is introduced so that students can design a competition style rocket. Finally, students build a model rocket from a kit, insert a motor in it, and launch it with an electronic launch pad system.
- Depending on completeness of activities
- 100 - 300 Minutes
California Career and Technical Education Standards
- ED.C.C2.2 Apply conventional engineering design processes and procedures accurately, appro...
- ED.FS.4.2 Understand the use of technological resources to gain access to, manipulate, and...
- ED.FS.6.2 Understand the critical elements of health and safety practices related to stori...
- ED.FS.7.4 Understand that individual actions can affect the larger community.
Objectives and Goals
- Students apply the engineering design process by planning, building, and testing a rocket made from a 2-liter soda bottle.
- Students demonstrate proficiency in using technological resources by creating a virtual rocket with RocSim software and launching it virtually.
- Students will evaluate the safety and legality of launching a model rocket at various locales by researching and discussing FAA regulations, city codes, and model rocket launching instructions.
Activities in this Lesson
- Mentos and Soda Reaction - Hooks / Set
Safety First: Make sure that any student working with the rockets wear appropriate safety clothing. In this case safety glasses are required.
Take the students outside to a large grassy area. Bring a 2-liter of soda (Diet Coke is recommended), a roll of Mint flavored Mentos, and a piece of paper. Place the 2-liter on the ground so that it will not tip over easily; remove the bottle cap. Roll the paper into a tube just big enough to hold the Mentos candies. Tell everyone to BACK UP. Hold the paper tube over the bottle opening and try to get all the Mentos to go into the bottle all at once. Move back quickly. It will erupt into a fountain of foam.
If you let students supply their own 2-liter bottles of soda and Mentos to do this experiment with you, it would be a great way to make sure each student or group of students has a 2-liter bottle to use to make a rocket!
- Soda Bottle Rockets - Projects
A 2-liter soda bottle can become a rocket. Just fill it half full with water and put a cork in the bottle as a stopper. Turn it upside down and brace it using cardboard. Tripod style legs work well to keep it balanced. Insert the needle from a bicycle or foot pump into the cork. Pump it slowly 5 or 6 times. When the bottle becomes pressurized, the cork will pop out, and the rocket will launch.
Have students design fins and a nosecone for their rocket. Create the fins with cardboard or manila file folders (folded for double layer strength). Nose cones can be made from construction paper or the capped end of another 2-liter bottle. Have students follow the design process: plan, sketch, build and then test.
You can make a better launch system using PVC pipe. See the attached document.
Or you can buy a professionally made water rocket launcher. See the link below for a super duper version of these rockets.
- Build a Rocket Launcher with PVC [ Download ] How-to PDF
- Rocket Simulation Software - Demo / Modeling
There are several good progrms for designing model rockets. I recommend RockSim by Apogee. It is relatively easy to use and there are tutorials available. Most model rocket teams use this program to design their competition rockets. Below is a link to a free 30-day trial version.
Demonstrate for students how to design a rocket. Start with the components such as the body tube and nose cone. You select these from drop down menus. Of course, the body tube and nose cone should be the same diameter. As you choose components, a simple line drawing of your assembled parts appears at the bottom of the page. Next add fins. Add an engine, also called a motor. Remember to put in a motor mount! That is a little piece that goes in the body tube to hold the motor in place. Try to launch the rocket. If it is won't launch because it is unstable, you must change the fins.
Let the students experiment with it. Observe as they work and tell them you want to see it when they get there rocket to launch.
- RockSim free trial [ Go to Site ] http://www.apogeerockets.com/rocksim_demo.asp
- Model Rockets - Projects
You can buy model rocket kits and electronic launch systems from hobby stores or toy stores. There is also a huge selection online. These items are expensive, so consider having larger groups of students working on them; one group might not build a rocket but be in charge of assembling the launch pad and launching the rockets. Pay attention to the skill level required to build the model rocket. This is listed on the box. Unless you have a group of students that are very experienced builders and you have plenty of time, I would go with Skill Level I or the slightly harder E2X. You will need glue, scissors, and sand paper to build these beginner level rockets. You can even buy them already assembled, called "Ready to Fly". Remember to get recovery wadding and extra igniters for the motors. The smaller A motors do not launch rockets as high as larger C or D motors. An A motor will likely launch the rocket 100 feet in the air.
Have students research where you should go to launch the rockets. The FAA has regulations about this in order to protect airplane flight paths. Cities have codes as well. Other factors to consider are the safety instructions for the launch system, how populated the area is, and how often police patrol the area. In Los Angeles, it can require a field trip to launch, though many schools just go to the parking lot or a nearby park.
When you launch, place the motor into the motor mount and secure it with masking tape. PLace the igniter in the motor with the two wires sticking out. Don't let the wires cross or touch. Insert the plug to hold the igniter into the motor. Slide the rocket launch lug onto the pole of the launch system. Clamp the alligator clips onto the igniter wires; again, don't let the wires or clips make contact with each other.
Have students do the countdown. 10. 9. 8, ...... Press the launch button. Observe. When the rocket reaches apogee and the parachute pops out, you "have an event".
Send someone to retrieve the rocket. Do not attempt to catch the rocket! The motor and rocket will be very hot.
- Clean-up - Closure
Examine the rocket that was launched. Discuss with students what happened or what went wrong if it didn't launch well. Clean up the area.
- Rocket Competitions - Other
As an extension to these lessons, form a team or club to compete in a model rocket competition. Contact the National Association of Rocketry to find a local club near you. Members of NAR make great mentors for model rocketry.
Each year, Team America Rocketry Challenge sponsors a nation wide model rocket competition open to teams of high school students. See link for info.
- TARC contest [ Go to Site ] http://www.rocketcontest.org/
- Assessment Types:
- Journals, Observations,
Have students write a journal entry in their notebooks about the process of designing, building and launching the rocket.