Make and launch your own rocket, using a plastic soda bottle! This is a great outdoor activity to do with your kids that's fun, hands-on, and educational. Mechanical, aerospace, and aeronautical engineers design aircraft that must fly reliably, safely, and predictably. Building a soda bottle rocket allows kids to step into the shoes of an engineer, and apply the fundamental concepts of physics, and principles of design to test their own spacecraft.
- Empty plastic soda bottle (2 liter)
- Cardboard made into a cone & 4 fins
- Duct tape
- Wine cork
- Bike pump with a needle adaptor
Step 1: Use a plate or bowl to trace a circle on cardboard about 8 inches in diameter. Cutaway 1/4 of the circle, to roll it into a cone shape. Wrap the cardboard code around the base of the soda bottle with duct tape.
Step 2: Cut out 2 6x6 cardboard squares and cut them in half to get two right triangles (4 in total). Duct tape the fins to the sides of the soda bottle spaced evenly apart.
Step 3: Use the Playdough to make a ballast to give the rocket some weight. Mold about 1/2 cup of Playdough to the ridge of the bottom of the bottle. Cover with duct tape to keep secure.
Step 4: Paint the rocket with colors of your choice! And let bottle dry.
Step 5: Push the needle adaptor of the pump through the cork. Make sure it goes all the way through. It may be necessary to trim the cork if you can't get the needle in all the way.
Step 6: Fill the bottle one quart full of water and push the cork in firmly.
Step 7: Take the bottle outside and connect the pump to the needle adaptor.
Step 8: Make sure all spectators stand back, then start pumping air into the bottle. Once pressure builds up, the rocket with take off with force in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . BLAST OFF!
Try experimenting with different amounts of water, or adding dish soap. Observe what happens!
Why The Soda Bottle Rocket Launches
Explaining why the bottle rocket launches, is important for kids to understand. As air is pumped into the bottle, pressure builds inside. When you keep pumping, the force of the air pushing on the water eventually becomes so strong that it forces the cork out of the bottle. This allows for water to rush in one direction as the bottle pushes back in the opposite direction, forcing the rocket to launch upwards!
Space rockets also work in a similar way! Instead of water, they burn fuel to make a powerful jet of gas. The force of the gas moving downwards pushes the rocket upwards. Enter . . . Newtown's Third Law. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
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