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Paper Rockets

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You are on page 1of 6

Paper Rockets

Objective:

To design, construct, and fly paper rockets that will travel

the greatest distance possible across a floor model of the

solar system.

Description:

In this activity, students construct small flying rockets out of

paper and propel them by blowing air through a straw.

Science Standards:

Science as Inquiry

Physical Science - Position and motion of objects

Science and Technology - Abilities of technological

design

Unifying Concepts and Processes - Evidence,

models, and explanation

Observing

Communicating

Measuring

Collecting Data

Inferring

Predicting

Making Models

Interpreting Data

Controlling Variables

Defining Operationally

Investigating

Mathematics Standards:

Mathematics as Problem Solving

Mathematics as Reasoning

Mathematical Connections

Geometry and Spatial Sense

Statistics and Probability

Management:

After demonstrating a completed paper

rocket to the students, have them construct

their own paper rockets and decorate them.

Students may work individually or in pairs.

Because the rockets are projectiles, make

s u r e students wear eye protection.

Scrap bond paper

Cellophane tape

Scissors

Sharpened fat pencil

Milkshake straw (slightly thinner than pencil)

Eye protection

Metric ruler

Masking tape or Altitude trackers

Pictures of the Sun and planets

distribute straws. Select a location for flying

the rockets. A room with open floor space or

a hallway is preferable. Prepare the floor by

marking a 10-meter test range with tape

measures or meter sticks laid end to end.

As an alternative, lay out the planetary target

range as shown on the next page. Have

students launch from planet Earth, and tell

them to determine the farthest planet they are

able to reach with their rocket. Use the

planetary arrangement shown on the next

page for laying out the launch range.

Pictures for the planets are found on page

63. Enlarge these pictures as desired.

Record data from each launch on the Paper

Rocket Launch Record Report form. The

form includes spaces for data from three

different rockets. After the first launches,

51

"improved" paper rockets and attempt a

longer journey through the solar system.

Encourage the students to try different sized

rockets and different shapes and number of

fins. For younger students, create a chart

listing how far each planet target is from

Earth. Older students can measure these

distances for themselves.

Background Information:

Although the activity uses a solar system

target range, the Paper Rockets activity

demonstrates how rockets fly through the

atmosphere. A rocket with no fins is much

more difficult to control than a rocket with

fins. The placement and size of the fins is

critical to achieve adequate stability while not

adding too much weight. More information

on rocket fins can be found on pages 22-23

of this guide.

1. Distribute the materials and construction

tools to each student.

2. Students should each construct a rocket

as shown in the instructions on the

student sheet.

3. Tell students to predict how far their

rocket will fly and record their estimates in

the test report sheet. After test flying the

rocket and measuring the distance it

reached, students should record the

actual distance and the difference

between predicted and actual distances

on the Paper Rockets Test Report.

4. Following the flight of the first rocket,

students should construct and test two

additional rockets of different sizes and fin

designs.

Pluto

Neptune

Jupiter

Mercury

Saturn

Uranus

Sun

Mars

Venus

Earth

52

Arrange pictures of the Sun and the

planets on a clear floor space as shown

below. The distance between Earth and

Pluto should be about 8 meters. Refer to

an encyclopedia or other reference for a

chart on the actual distances to each

planet.

Planet Targets

(Not Drawn To Scale)

of the pictures on separate paper. Place these pictures on

the floor according to the arrangement on the previous

page. If you wish to make the planets to scale, refer to the

numbers beside the names indicating the relative sizes of

each body. Earth's diameter is given as one and all the

other bodies are given as multiples of one.

Mercury

0.38X

Venus

0.95X

Sun

108X

Earth

1X

Mars

0.53X

Saturn

9.4X

Jupiter

11.2X

Uranus

4X

Neptune

3.9X

Pluto

0.9X

EG-108 February 1996

53

Discussion:

1. What makes one rocket perform better

than another? (Do not forget to examine

the weight of each rocket. Rockets made

with extra tape and larger fins weigh

more.)

2. How small can the fins be and still

stabilize the rocket?

3. How many fins does a rocket need to

stabilize it?

4. What would happen if you placed the

rocket fins near the rocket's nose?

5. What will happen to the rocket if you bend

the lower tips of the fins pinwheel

fashion?

6. Are rocket fins necessary in outer space?

Assessment:

Students will complete test reports that will

describe the rockets they constructed and

how those rockets performed. Ask the

students to create bar graphs on a blank

sheet of paper that show how far each of the

three rockets they constructed flew. Have

students write a summarizing paragraph in

which they pick which rocket performed the

best and explain their ideas for why it

performed as it did.

Extensions:

Try to determine how high the rockets fly. To

do so, place masking tape markers on a wall

at measured distances from the floor to the

ceiling. While one student launches the

rocket along the wall, another student

compares the height the rocket reached with

the tape markers. Be sure to have the

students subtract the height from where the

rocket was launched from the altitude

reached. For example, if students held the

rocket 1.5 meters from the floor to launch it,

and it reached 4 meters above the floor, the

actual altitude change was 2.5 meters. Refer

to the Altitude Tracker activity starting on

page 69 for details on a second method for

measuring the height the paper rockets

reach.

54

PAPER ROCKETS

Follow the arrows to build your rocket.

Roll paper strip around

pencil.

4

st by 2

rip 8

of ce

pa nti

pe me

r te

C

N

U

Blow through

straw to launch.

and tape shut.

Insert straw.

shape you like.

Cut off ends.

tape fins to tube.

55

Names:

1. Launch your rocket three times. How far did it fly each time. What is the average

distance your rocket flew? Write your answer in the spaces below.

2. Build and fly a rocket of a new design. Before flying it, predict how far it will go.

Fly the rocket three times and average the distances. What is the difference

between your prediction and the actual average distance?

3. Build a third rocket and repeat step 2.

4. On the back of this paper, write a short paragraph describing each rocket you built

and how it flew. Draw pictures of the rockets you constructed.

Rocket 1

How far did it fly

in centimeters?

1.

2.

3.

Average distance

in centimeters?

Rocket 2

your rocket will fly.

How far did it fly

in centimeters?

1.

2.

3.

Average distance?

Difference between your

prediction and the average

distance?

Rocket 3

your rocket will fly.

How far did it fly

in centimeters?

1.

2.

3.

Average distance?

Difference between your

prediction and the average

distance?

56

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