Monday, May 20, 2013

Quick air-powered rockets

Here's a very quick slightly weekend-morning educational project to do with kids. To make it more educational, one can try to have kids figure out a method for measuring how high the rockets go. (Two methods off-the-top of my head: use a quadrant--or phone app that provides similar functionality--and trigonometry, or measure how far the shadow of the rocket goes from the launch zone, and compare the shadow length of something of known height.)

1 comment:

Dagmara Lizlovs said...


Reminds me of the good old days although this is waaaaay too tame compared to what I used to do and what my grandmother used to do! While you were somewhere between graduating from diapers and going through the terrible twos, I was in a rocketry class for science for one semester in the 9th grade. I am really an airplane person. I would have preferred something on airplane flight, but rocketry was what was offered. We used water rockets. We filled up the plastic rocket with water part way, and we pumped in air with a hand pump which also had a trigger mechanism. We then pulled the trigger and off into the wild blue yonder the rocket went. The height that these rockets could reach was about 200 feet. The object was to get the right combination of water volume to air pressure to get the maximum height. Our neighborhood was also under the final approach to Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport (DTW). Back then those Boeing 707's would come in regularly overhead one after the other. Sometimes you'd get the old DC-8's, the Convair 880's, the 727's and DC-9's, as well as the L1011's and DC-10's. In those days there were great names in the sky like Pan-Am, Eastern, Northwest Orient, North Central and Braniff. Occasionally you would see a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flight. They also served real food on board too. Those engines where really loud and to my ears lovely. Those were heady days too, because Frontier Airlines had just hired their first female pilot. We were pretty naughty back then, and would shoot our water rockets at the planes overhead, although the planes were well out of range and moving way too fast.

My sister and I were also into shooting off bottle rockets and other rockets on the 4th of July. One year we acquired a pretty good arsenal, and we had these rockets with fins on them which were supposed to go up pretty high before blowing up. Well one of these rockets got to a height of about 8 feet and suddenly transitioned from vertical flight to horizontal flight and flew through several people's back yards. We freaked out and called an immediate cease fire so that none one could trace the stray rocket back to us.

Then back in the really good old days, when the Czar was in charge, my maternal grandmother and her brother were into making rockets back when they were kids. My grandmother rolled up the tubes and made the fuses, while my grand uncle made the gun powder. It was New Years Eve at the home of my great grandparents. Grandma and grand uncle where making the rockets. An accident happened and they came close to setting the powder on fire. In the next room, my great grandparents were playing cards totally oblivious to how close they came to all being blown up!