OverviewSoda Straw Rockets is an excellent opportunity for students to practice the engineering design process. This activity provides students with a template that creates a rocket that can be launched from a soda straw. They are then challenged to modify the design to see how the changes impact the rocket performance. Length, fin shape or angle can be changed–one variable at a time–to see how the rocket launch performs, and compares to the control design.
Move desks/tables out of the way to make room for rocket launch. Or, consider launching rockets outside if that's an option.
Set out tape markers for distance if the number of meter sticks/tape is limited. Or, use floor tile length to calculate distance.
Each student should construct their own rocket even while working in a group.
Modern rocket design began near the beginning of the 20th century. While much has been learned and rockets have grown larger and more powerful, rocket designs are still improving. Engineers developing new rockets must control variables and consider failure points when improving rocket designs. By changing one variable at a time, engineers can determine if that change leads to an increase or decrease in performance. They must also consider how their design might fail, and work to improve their design. These incremental changes allow engineers to improve rocket performance and increase the amount of mass they can lift into space.
- Carefully cut out the large rectangle on the rocket template. This will be the body of the rocket. Wrap the rocket body around a pencil length-wise and tape it closed to form a tube.
- Carefully cut out the two fin units. Align the rectangle in the middle of the fin unit with the end of the rocket body and tape it to the rocket body. Nothing should stick out past the bottom of the rocket body.
- Do the same thing for the other fin unit, but tape it on the other side of the pencil to make a “fin sandwich.”
- Bend one fin (triangle) on each fin unit 90 degrees so that each fin is at a right angle to its neighbor. Looking from the bottom of the rocket, the fins should look like a “+” mark.
- Using the sharpened end of the pencil, twist the top of the rocket body into a nose cone.
- Measure the nose cone from its base to its tip and record the length in the data log and on the rocket itself. (Once completed, the rocket will be about 13 cm tall (about 5 inches).
- Remove the pencil and replace it with a soda straw.
- Blow into the straw to launch the rocket.
- Use the meter stick to measure, the distance it travels, then record the distance on the data log.
- Next, make new rockets by altering the template. Try different rocket lengths, fin shape, or angle. Repeat steps 5 and 7 for every launch, recording each design change and distance in the data log.
- Create a class data table. Students can share data and discuss how rocket length affects distance.
- Let students personalize their rockets by coloring or drawing on them.
- Watch this video to learn more about science conducted with sounding rockets.