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Water Bottle Rocket Launcher

Water Bottle Rocket Launcher

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Published by toddwilliams
Instructions for how to make a bicycle-pump powered launcher out of PVC pipe that will launch a 2-liter bottle
Instructions for how to make a bicycle-pump powered launcher out of PVC pipe that will launch a 2-liter bottle

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Published by: toddwilliams on Apr 06, 2010
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A Webelos Project. By Todd Williams, Cubmaster, Pack 3732 2007

In addition to the opportunities to do Scientist Activity Badge requirements, this is building “a useful item using materials other than wood”, per Craftsman Activity Badge. Here are the plans to make a launcher that will send a 2-liter plastic soda bottle high into the air. For each launcher you will need: • 3 ½” PVC slip cap (C1, C2, C3 below) • 1 ½” PVC Tee – slip x slip x slip (T1 below) • 1 ½” PVC Tee – slip x slip x threaded (T2 below) • 5 feet ½” PVC schedule 40 pipe • 1 ½” threaded sprinkler riser pipe, 6” or longer – OK to use cutoff riser. • 1 foot electrical tape • 1 valve from a tire inner tube – get valve stems from the tire store – They will often give you a handful for free! • PVC pipe cement and primer • 1 foot Teflon tape • 1 bicycle pump • 1 empty 2 liter plastic bottle • Sandpaper for deburring • Gloves? Eye protection? • Paper towels, drop cloth? Completed launcher looks like this:


P1 P3 T1 T2 P4 C3



Pre-Assembly (by an adult, to be done well in advance): 1. The only difficult part of this project is to install the valve into the end cap. This will require a special hole of a special size, depending on the type of valve you have. You may need to use a drill bit and ream it out further. Do it well in advance. 2. This project requires 8 glue joints and 3 cuts of a 5 foot pipe. You may want to do some of the cuts and some of the glue joints in advance, leaving the scouts a cut or two and a glue joint or two – that will probably be more than enough! 3. For the assembly instructions below, we prepared the supplies as follows: a. One 2-foot pipe with an end cap on one end and the base of a slipXslipXslip Tee on the other end. (This will become C1+P1 and P3+T1). b. One 3-foot pipe with a plain end cap one one end and a prepared end cap with air valve on the other end. (This will become C2+P2 and C3+P4). c. This leaves us with 2 cuts and 4 glue joints to do. Assembly Instructions: 1. Protective gloves and safety goggles are recommended. 2. Remember that a scout is CLEAN. Be sure to LEAVE NO TRACE. 3. ADULT discusses Teflon tape. 4. Wrap a few turns of Teflon tape around the riser and screw it into the threaded tee (T2). T2 has nothing connected to it at this point. Set it aside. 5. With a pencil, MARK each of the two prepared pieces of pipe, approximately 12 inches from the plain end cap. 6. Show an adult where you marked it. 7. ADULT discusses methods for cutting PVC pipe (hacksaw or pipe cutter) and important tips (right angle, deburring) 8. With a hack saw or PVC pipe cutter, cut each of the two pieces of pipe at the mark you made. 9. ADULT inspects saw cuts and discusses need to DRY FIT. 10. DRY FIT all pieces. 11. ADULT discusses primer and glue needs and methods and DEMONSTRATES. a. What is primer? What does it do? b. How to prime c. How to glue: amount to use, don’t make a mess. ¼ turn and hold 30 sec. How long to wait. 12. Prime and Glue the C1+P1 piece into the T1+P3 piece. (orientation is unimportant, both sides of the Tee are the same) 13. Prime and Glue the C2+P2 piece into the T1+P2 piece. (the remaining side of the Tee) 14. Prime and Glue the C3+P4 piece into the T2 piece (that has the riser on it). 15. Now we are ready for the last glue joint. Orientation is important this time. Prime and Glue the assembly into the T2+P4+C3 piece, making sure that the riser is pointing straight up. 16. Wrap electrical tape around the threaded riser pipe so that there is a tapered, water-tight connection when a 2 liter bottle half full of water is pushed onto it. 17. ADULT discusses friction while the glue dries. 18. ADULT discusses theory while the glue dries.

Notes on scientific theory stuff… Conservation of Energy Energy doesn’t go away, it just changes form. Total energy remains constant. It takes your energy to pump; that energy gets stored in the compressed air. The stored energy in the compressed air changes to kinetic energy of the rocket. As it goes higher, it slows down and changes to potential (gravitational) energy. Then it comes back down and ___speeds up__ and changes to kinetic energy. Newton’s First Law (the law of inertia) An object at rest will remain at rest unless a unbalanced force acts upon it; an object in motion… Force in the compressed air = force of friction (until it is unbalanced) Once it is in motion, what force makes it stop? Newton’s Second Law The motion (acceleration) of an object is proportional to the force acting on it. Double the force, double the motion. Example: Big guy and little guy on ice skates, head-on collision – what happens? Newton’s Third Law For every action force there is an equal but opposite reaction force. When I push on the building, the building pushes back at me equally. Compressed air pushes the water down, but the water pushes back up at the rocket equally. (but nd –2 law—the water is heavier than the rocket, so the lightweight rocket does what? (goes faster/farther than the heavy water )) SCIENTIST AB REQUIREMENTS that you might complete…. 6. Show the effects of air pressure 7. Show the effects of water pressure 8. Build and launch a model rocket. Describe how Newton’s 3rd law explains how the rocket goes up into the sky. 3. Read Newton’s first law. Show how inertia works HOW TO LAUNCH : 1. Fill a bottle about 1/4th to 1/3rd full of water. 2. Invert the bottle onto the tape-covered riser. Some water will leak down into the launcher pipes. “Screw” the bottle onto the tape covered riser very firmly. (Expert tip: One to three pumps at this point may firm up the flimsy bottle so that you can get more friction on the connection here). The amount of friction you achieve here determines how high the rocket will go, and with this design, it’s hard to get to dangerous levels. 3. Start pumping. The faster the better. Don’t stop. SAFETY NOTES : With no nose cone or fins, these large 2-liter bottles will take off fast, but will gently tumble back down to earth. It’s probably OK to let kids try to catch them as they tumble back down. Changes to the design, however, may require increased safety measures. • Don’t allow anyone within 10 feet of the rocket at launch (the guy who is pumping will be several feet away, and shouldn’t get too close – if the rocket could hit somebody as it is leaving the pad, that would be dangerous. • Don’t change the method for achieving friction; don’t use anything but a hand pump; don’t add fins; don’t use a smaller bottle; don’t use a damaged bottle. • Using this method, you’ll probably launch at 60psi or lower. Most 2-liter bottles can safely handle well over 100psi. • Want to take it to the next level? Drop $20 on a SkyLab from www.antigravityresearch.com !

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