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Embed code for: Rockets Teacher Notes
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Directions and tips for using the straw rocket and stomp rocket activities.
By Kristen Messer, Manteca Unified School District
Adapted from Stephan Unterholzner, Manteca Unified School District
Template credits given to John Callas, NASA/JPS (Straw Rocket) and Makezine.com (Air Rocket)
Using rockets is one very engaging way to teach basic concepts in physics. Through basic rockets you can cover such concepts as Newton’s Laws of Motion, forces, momentum, gravitational pull, acceleration, aerodynamics and fluid friction. With more advanced rockets, you can delve into earth science and the atmosphere, the chemistry of rocket launches and rocket manufacturing, and more advanced physics topics. While the attached lesson is geared toward middle school students and possibly younger, the concepts can be extended for use with older students. (See the extension activities below.)
In addition to covering essential topics in physics in an engaging way, the attached lessons also take advantage of engineering principles. Students build a rocket that is launched with a straw. Then in the second lesson, they use what they’ve learned to make a larger rocket launched with large plastic bottles attached to 1-inch tubing. Once that data is collected, the students will make a modification to their rocket with the hopes of gaining distance in the launch. Students then compare their original rocket to the modified version, and compare all of the class’s modifications to determine what worked best.
The activities also lend themselves to the 4 C’s: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking and communication. Students will also be working in pairs or trios and sharing their ideas, discussing what might work best, assigning tasks, and creating together.
You can decide before performing the activities whether you want the activities to be the introduction to the concept, or if you prefer to discuss the concepts and have the students make predictions about what will happen based on the learning.
In the first activity, Straw Rockets, make sure students do not share straws when blowing to launch the rocket. In the end they should understand that things such as the angle of the launch (which is estimated but not measured), any wind, the size of their breath, the speed at which they exhale, as well as attention to detail in the actual building of the rocket can all play a part in the outcome.
In the second activity, Stomp Rockets, students will need to create then modify their rockets. There is considerable preparation in trimming and assembling the PVC pipe and garden hose apparatuses, and you will need one per group. Also, when students stomp on their 2-Liter bottles, they may crack. Make certain you have sufficient extra bottles to swap out. You may want to brainstorm modifications as a class after the first launch. These could include shorter or longer body, shorter or longer nosecone, shorter or longer fins, more fins, fewer fins, curved fins, adding weight to top, middle or bottom, increasing diameter, using a material other than paper (which will affect its weight), etc. Again, make sure only one student is blowing into the PVC pipe to re-inflate the bottle. Experimental errors will be similar to those with straw rockets. Angle, wind, attention to detail. But now, student weight or “stomp intensity” will also play a part.
Optional extension activities:
Perform a vertical launch. You’ll need to use a stopwatch and time how long it takes to go up and come back down. Calculate the initial velocity using the formula Force = Mass x Acceleration. We can find the mass of the rocket, and know the acceleration of gravity is -9.8 m/s2. This force will be the same as the Kinetic Energy when the rocket approaches the ground. And KE= ½mass x velocity2. Substitute in the Kinetic Energy and the mass and solve for velocity.
Build a rocket launcher that attaches to an air compressor or bicycle pump to launch the stomp rockets for a lot more excitement. Do a Bing search to find out how.
Create a Sway with photos of the rockets and students and information about how each performed.
Compare the modifications that worked best with actual rockets and note any similarities.
Search out your local rocketry club for an in person or Skype conversation. Have students list questions they would like to ask. Arrange for an in person small rocket launch demo. e very engaging way to teach basic concepts in physics. Through basic rockets you can cover such concepts as Newton’s Laws of Motion, forces, momentum, gravitational pull, acceleration, aerodynamics and fluid friction. With more advanced rockets, you can delve into earth science and the atmosphere, the chemistry of rocket launches and rocket manufacturing, and more advanced physics topics. While the attached lesson is geared toward middle school students and possibly younger, the concepts can be extended for use with older students. (See the extension activities below.)