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This summer, we are making rockets at the Pacific Science Center! These rockets are a really fantastic physics activity that can be done pretty easily at home with relatively easy to find materials.

You need (rockets):

  • 1-2 sheets of colorful paper
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • 1/2 inch PVC pipe (for measuring rocket size)

Basic stomp Launcher:

  • Basic airbed foot pump
  • 1/2 inch PVC pipe
  • Elbow for PVC pipe
  • Piece of wood or other heavier object to support launching mechanism
  • a couple of half inch tube straps
  • nail or screws and a drill to attach PVC pipe to support system
  • gaffers tape or duct tape to attach bellows to pvc

Step 1: Build Your Rockets

First, make the body of your rocket by making a paper tube. It is really helpful to use a spare piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe to measure the size of your rocket. You want it to be able to slide on and off very easily. If the rocket is too tight, it will not be able to launch.

Next, add a top. Experiment -- which is better? Flat tops or pointy tops? Big tips or small tips?

Optionally, add fins and other decorative elements. Do they help your rocket fly higher? Stay in the air longer?

Step 2: Build Your Launcher!

Our basic launcher has two stomping mechanisms side by side so that folks can compete in rocket launchability! Our indoor stomp system points horizontally and our outdoor stomp system points straight up in the air.

Any heavier piece of wood or plywood would work well as a base. Attach PVC pipe bent with an elbow joint to the base. Metal brackets with screw or nail holes work well for a sturdy fit. Otherwise, you can use duct tape or gaffers tape for a more temporary solution.

A bellow foot pump for an air mattress works really well for rocket launching. Attach the tube on the bellow to 1/2 inch PVC pipe with gaffers tape or duct tape. Make sure you have a nice, tight seal with no air leaks.

Step 3: Launch Your Rocket!

Place your rocket on the launch and stomp to see your rocket fly!

If your rocket doesn't work on the first try:

  • Are there any air holes? Sometimes air leaks through the tip. Sometimes tips are fragile and come off of rockets. How can you make a sturdier, more airtight tip?
  • Sometimes rockets are too tight and don't launch well because there is too much friction. For a good launch, try to make sure your rocket slides easily on and off of a PVC pipe.

Upgraded launcher coming up!

Can you use a bicycle pump instead of the launcher?

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am the Tinker Tank Program Lead at the Pacific Science Center! I love to teach people about science and technology and to make whimsical ... More »
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