Introduction: Spitball Straw Rockets- Quick, Cheap, and FUN!

Picture of Spitball Straw Rockets-  Quick, Cheap, and FUN!
Straw rockets have been done over and over with hundreds of different variations, so why not one more?  This version is ultra-fast and super easy, allowing you to make multiple rockets with different designs in a very short time. 

I do this project with 7th and 8th grade students in one class period, having them build at least 3 different rockets with different lengths and different size, style, and number of fins.  This allows them to see how different designs may work before we build larger pop-bottle rockets.  There are many other possible applications, please see the last step for more ideas!

Learning Objective:  By building 3 Spitball Straw Rockets, students will be able to compare how different rocket designs perform, understand how thrust and drag affect rockets, and demonstrate Newton's 3rd Law of Motion- For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Picture of Gather Supplies

Very simple list:

Strip of paper about 2" wide and as long as you want to make it
Glue Stick
Pen or dowel slightly thicker than the straw

Step 2: Make the Body

Picture of Make the Body

Trim the piece of paper to the length of your pen or dowel as shown in Picture 1.  If you are using a long dowel, you can glue strips together to make them long enough.

Roll the paper around the pen tightly as shown in Picture 2, and then put glue along the last edge of the strip.  Roll it over a few times to push the edge down tight so the glue will stick!

Slide the tube off of the pen.

Make the Nose Cone by flattening a part of the top and folding about 1/4" of it over as shown in Picture 4.  Glue it down.

That was easy!  Lets make some fins.

Step 3: Make the Fins

Picture of Make the Fins

Using the piece you trimmed off of the strip or another scrap, design a fin and cut it out.  Use it to trace other fins as shown in Picture 1.

Once you have all of the fins cut out (remember, try different styles, sizes, and numbers on different rockets!), we can glue them on.  There are two ways to do this.  The easiest is to just put a strip of glue down the edge of a fin as shown in Picture 2 and then glue it flat to the side of the body as shown in Picture 3.  The other way to do it would be bend the edge of the fin, creating a tab to put glue on.  To me, its just an extra unnecessary step, but its your rocket!

Continue attaching the fins, trying to make them as evenly spaced as possible.  Also try to get them as parallel to the body as possible for straight flight.

Step 4: Launch!

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Easiest step of the whole thing- slide the body of the rocket over the straw, put the straw to your mouth, and BLOW!

Step 5: Ideas for Classroom Use.

Picture of Ideas for Classroom Use.

There are lots of ways to use this simple project in your classroom.  Here are a few quick ideas:

Demonstrating Newton's Law's- action/reaction of rocket when launched, momentum & inertia, etc.
Center of Pressure vs. Center of Gravity- attach fins to top of rocket instead of bottom and compare flight characteristics
Physics / Trajectory- set up a box or can and have students try to get rocket in the "goal"- tip the box on its side so rockets have to enter from the side (flat trajectory), then tip box up so rockets have to come in from the top (high trajectory)
Thrust and drag- compare large fins to small fins, soft blow to hard blow (or even use an air hose to REALLY launch them across the room...)


anthonyflores (author)2013-08-17

This is awesome

Kiteman (author)2012-03-15

For an even more scientific approach, I would connect them to empty plastic bottles as launchers - that makes a fixed volume of air.

If you drop a known mass from a known height, then that also applies a constant pressure on launch.

brianfss (author)Kiteman2013-04-29

As usual kiteman, you've added a valuable lesson. I've been building the little paper rockets for years, but just as a design thing before building the pop bottle rockets. I'm definately going to use your idea this year to up the educational content of the of the exercise.
I've also used the air compressor in the shop to launch them. That way we get a constant pressure.

Kiteman (author)brianfss2013-04-29


dorkpunch (author)Kiteman2012-03-19

That's a great idea too! Wondering now if I could work some physics in- PE=KE. If we can measure the altitude of the rocket, we could calculate its potential energy at apogee, then figure out its velocity at launch...

JACKBARRY (author)2012-10-25

doing this in class

Reed_Sky_Born (author)2012-04-05


Average_Builder (author)2012-03-19

What does this have to do with education why is it in the education contest

fstedie (author)Average_Builder2012-03-20

Wow, it sounds like you had a terrible school experience. There are plenty of "real" concepts behind the use of this simple activity: Aerodynamics, Physics, Math, all of which apply DIRECTLY.

Don't criticize if you don't know what you're talking about...

Kiteman (author)Average_Builder2012-03-20

Never heard of "Rocket Science"?

Lots... I use it in my classroom to teach about Newton's Laws of Motion and as a test bed before we build our pop bottle rockets. There are several more uses for this activity in the classroom- I listed a few of them in the last step.

Atlas Portal 2 (author)2012-03-16

This is SO awesome I love it

rimar2000 (author)2012-03-15

Nice kork!

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