Flying Model Rockets
Flying model rockets is a relatively safe and inexpensive way for students to learn the basics of forces and motion. There are many different types of model rockets and one of the first and simplest type of rocket that a student encounters is the bottle rocket. We have an entire section of the Beginner’s Guide to Rockets, devoted to the science and math of bottle rockets. There are special web pages for teachers to align bottle rocket activities with National Math and Science Standards.
The Fun Aspect of Designing a Rocket
It is important to note that building and launching a bottle rocket is not only educational, it is fun. Groups of students can work together with a teacher to learn the fundamentals. In the figure at the top of this page, we show teachers and students from two different schools involved with bottle rocket activities. The center photo comes from Sue Simmons of Birche’s Elementary School in Turnersville, New Jersey. Mrs. Simmons and her students are preparing a rocket for launch at the pad. The other two photos are from Casey Teliczan of the Rockford Public School District in Rockford, Michigan. Mr. Teliczan’s activities are part of the Rockford Community Services after-school enrichment program. On the left photo, his students proudly display their rocket designs and on the right, a rocket has been launched leaving a trail of water exhaust.
Birche’s Elementary School 5th grade classes conducted scientific studies of bottle rockets in the fall of 2009. They were joined in the fall of 2011 by students and teachers at Whitman Elementary. Each group of students launched an egg on a rocket of their own design with and without water as a propellant. The students produced Power Point presentations of their studies which are available for your study and viewing. In 2009, Mrs. Simmons’ classes produced a video recording of their project and have made it available to students around the world. Just select the movie picture below to launch the video. The file is large (34 Mb) so it may take time to download.
You can use our RocketModeler III computer program to predict the flight characteristics of your bottle rocket. After the flight, compare your flight data with the predictions in the same process used by real rocket scientists to improve designs.