Science at Play: Stomp Rockets

Have you ever wondered how rockets can launch into the sky with such great force? Keep reading to learn how to build a stomp rocket at home and explore careers in aerospace!

MATERIAL LIST:

  • 1 inch wide, 3 feet long bike tube 
  • 2-liter soda bottle, and a backup, if possible
  • 1 inch wide, 1 foot long pipe (PVC works well because it’s lightweight)
  • Three pieces of 8.5×11 paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape (masking or clear will work!)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place one end of the stretchy bike tube over the bottle head. Stick some tape around the top of the bottle to secure the bike tube. This part is crucial because we’re going to introduce a lot of force. 
  2. Secure the other end of the bike tube to the PVC pipe and fasten it with tape. You should now have one unit with a soda bottle and a PVC pipe connected by a bike tube. 
  3. It’s time to build the fuselage, or main body, for your rocket! Roll up a standard piece of paper (8.5×11) the long way, and slide the PVC pipe inside to ensure the paper fits comfortably. We do not want it to be too tight or loose, since it will need to glide off of the pipe easily once we launch it. Tape the paper, so it remains in a cylindrical state.
  4. Cut out a triangle-shaped piece of paper (see the image to the right). Make the base of the triangle slightly shorter than the two side lengths, but long enough to wrap around the paper cylinder’s circumference. Fold the paper to make a cone shape. Tape the cone onto the top of the paper cylinder part of the rocket.
  5. Take a standard piece of paper (8.5×11) and fold it two times – your paper should be folded into quarters. Draw a fin design on the folded paper. This shape should have four sides, with two sides longer than the others, but feel free to experiment with different configurations to see which works better for you! Cut out your shape. You should have four fins total.
  6. Tape these fins onto the bottom end of the rocket, opposite from the nose cone, so that they are evenly spaced around the end of the rocket with the opening. For reference, check out the image below. 
  7. Now, it’s time for the fun part. Slide the rocket onto the pipe, with the nose cone facing away from the bike tube and bottle. While holding the PVC pipe away from you, forcefully step onto the soda bottle, so the rocket flies off the contraption. The amount of force placed on the soda bottle affects how high the rocket will launch. If needed, replace the soda bottle with another.

 

CHALLENGES:

  • Try with a bottle larger or smaller than 2-liters. What do you notice about the different sizes? What do you think caused the differences?
  • What is the purpose of the nose? The fins? What do you think would happen if we used different shapes?

WHAT IS THE SCIENCE?

When we step on the bottle, we compress the air inside it, forcing it to move up and out through our PVC pipe and into the rocket body. The air is unable to escape when it reaches the nose of the rocket, so it pushes upwards and downwards at the same time, causing our rocket to launch. 

RELATED CAREERS:

Can you see yourself working with this type of science regularly? Perhaps as a meteorologist, aerospace engineer, or mechanical engineer? As a meteorologist, you would study the atmosphere to determine the weather forecast and research the causes and trajectories of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and more. As an Aerospace Systems Engineer, you might work not only on navigation but also on the development and improvement of control systems that fuel rocket machinery. Finally, if you become a mechanical engineer, you might prepare and create proposals, perhaps developing the equipment that makes rockets function. Hopefully, these careers have piqued your interest, but there are plenty more careers that deal with physics and flight. Take a look at this NASA article that lists some individuals who have used their STEM background and apply it to their interest in rocketry: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/from-rockets-to-careers/

Or, view our recent Lunch Bunch Facebook Live at Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense to learn about a day in the life of a Development engineer!

Sources

Deiss, Heather S. “From Rockets to Careers: It’s a STEM Thing.” NASA.gov, NASA, 15 Jan. 2014, www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/from-rockets-to-careers/.

 

Caroline Bogue is a senior at Bates College. She is studying psychology with an Archaeology and Material Culture concentration. This summer, she is working as a Public Programs Intern at the Connecticut Science Center to assist with virtual programming and remote learning activities. She is passionate about animal care and wildlife. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis and being outdoors, and she has experience playing soccer and basketball at the collegiate level.

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