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SCI-LIT LINKS QUICKPLAN
BLAST OFF!
(QuickPlan developed by Dr. Ken Mechling, Clarion, Pennsylvania)

OVERVIEW: Students hold altitude contests with rockets constructed of paper and powered with effervescent antacid tablets and water in film cannister engines. They learn concepts such as thrust, gravity, streamline, and Newton's laws of motion.

BOOKLINK: How to Build a Rocket by Hazel Richardson, Franklin Watts, New York, 1999. ISBN 0-531-13998-0

SCIENCE ACTIVITY LINK: Challenged to build the highest flying rocket and relate their experiences to Newton's laws of motion and space travel, children design, construct, and launch rockets powered by carbon dioxide gases in film cannister engines.

OBJECTIVE: Students will design, construct, test, and redesign model rockets.

SCIENCE PROCESSES AND CONTENT: Processes-Observing, measuring, formulating hypotheses, predicting, inferring, communicating, classifying, experimenting, manipulating and controlling variables, gathering and displaying data, and constructing models. Content-Design technology, rockets, Newton's laws of motion, history and nature of science, and space travel.

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS: Unifying Concepts and Processes, (1) Science as Inquiry, (2) Physical Science, (3) Life Science, (4) Earth and Space Science, (5) Science and Technology, (6) Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, (7) History and Nature of Science

MATERIALS: Book How to Build a Rocket, plastic 35mm film cannisters with internal sealing lids (These are usually the white ones. Film cannisters are available free from most film processing centers.), word processing or copy paper, cellophane tape scissors, effervescing antacid tablets, paper towels, water, eye protection (goggles), metric tapes, and colored markers.

PROCEDURE:
1. Get the students' attention by telling them that you are going to demonstrate an object (don't tell them what it is!) you would like them to observe. At the front of your room well away from your class, have a film cannister filled 1/3 with water. Then drop in 1/2 of an effervescent tablet, quickly put the lid back on, turn the cannister lid end down on a paper towel, and stand back. (Make sure you wear eye protection--for safety and as a model for your students. The cannister will pop and hit the ceiling with considerable speed and force. Ask the students (who will now be excited) what they observed and what they infer about what you did. You may want to have them write their observations and inferences prior to discussion. (What they observed was a rocket, powered by carbon dioxide gas under increasing pressure as the effervescent tablet and the water interacted).

2. After discussing students' observations and inferences, share with them selected chapters from the book, How to Build a Rocket. They might find interesting "The Mad History of Rockets," learn about "The Gravity Guys," consider making their own rocket balloons, or hear about the history of "The Space Race." You may wish to ask them what chapters they would like to read.

3. Explain to the students that each of them is going to design, construct, and launch a model rocket. They are going to participate in a class contest to determine who can make the highest flying rocket. Provide the materials for construction, instructing them that they have everything that they need for building a rocket. All rockets must have an engine, a body tube, a nose cone, and fins. They can make the rocket any size they wish but remind them that their goal is to have it fly as high as possible, with all using the same amount of "fuel," --1/3 cannister of water and 1/2 of an effervescent tablet.

4. Now have the students begin design and construction. With the lid end of the cannister down, wrap a tube of paper (any size) around the cannister and attach it with tape. Make sure the tube is taped a bit above the cannister end so that the lid can be easily snapped into place prior to launch. Tape paper fins near the bottom of the rocket. To make the nose cone, cut out a circle of paper, remove a pie-shaped wedge of paper about 1/4 the size of the circle, roll it into a cone, fasten it with tape, and, finally, tape it to the rocket's upper end. Using colored markers or crayons, students can decorate their rockets. Allow 45 to 60 minutes for rocket construction.

5. Locate a launch pad site. This might be a room with a high ceiling or the outside wall of the school building. Tape a tape measure to the wall and mark clearly visible units, e.g. .25 meters, .50 meters, .75 meters, 1.00 meters, 1.25 meters and so on up to about 3.00 meters.

6. The students are now ready to launch. Those nearest the launch pad should wear eye protection. The teacher controls the water and effervescent tablet (explain that these are variables that are controlled, making it a fair test). Students take turns launching. As each student prepares to launch, they are given 1/3 cannister of water and 1/2 tablet. With water in their cannister, they must drop the tablet in, quickly snap on the lid (they need to do this fast!), and set the rocket on a level launch pad with the lid down and the nose cone up. Now they need to move away quickly and await the launch. Selected students can be designated to "read" or measure how high the rocket travels. These results should be recorded and eventually classified sequentially. While some of the rockets will fizzle out on the launch pad, some will achieve heights of several meters. Have the students infer the reasons for the variations in flight height.

7. This activity is a simple but exciting demonstration of Newton's laws of motion. The rocket lifts off because it is acted upon by an unbalanced force (First Law). This is the force produced when the lid is blown off by the gas formed in the cannister. The rocket travels upward (against gravity) with a force that is equal and opposite to the downward force propelling the rocket (Third Law). The amount of force is directly proportional to the mass of water and gas expelled from the cannister and how fast it accelerates (Second Law).

8. Students should be encouraged to do other experiments with their rockets. They can identify other problems, formulate hypotheses, design and conduct investigations, manipulate and control variables, etc. Investigations of the variables that affect flight height could include mass of the rocket, amount of water, temperature of the water, amount of tablet, fin design, size of the rocket tube and others. Film cannister rockets offer excellent opportunities for students to practice inquiry skills, utilize the processes of science, practice design-redesign technology, learn about the applications of Newton's laws of motion, and stir the creative juices. Ready? 3-2-1 Blast Off!!!

SAFETY: Safety glasses or goggles should be worn at all times when observing and launching rockets. Rockets must be aimed straight up in the air, NOT toward people.

RELATED BOOKS:
Rocket to the Moon by Lisa M. Combs, Troll: Bridgewater Paperback, 1999. ISBN 0-8167-6332-1
Rockets and Spaceships by Lynn Myring, Usborne Publishing Ltd, London, 1991. ISBN 0-86020-584-3
The Plant that Ate the Dirty Socks Goes Up in Space by Nancy McArthur, Avon Camelot, NY, 1995. ISBN 0-380-77664-2
Rockets: A Teacher's Guide with Activities in Science, Mathematics, and Technology,NASA, 1996. Publication # EG-1996-09- 108-HQ
The Sky's the Limit, AIMS, 1994. www.AIMSedu.org

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