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Water rockets have been a part of my life ever since my mom said "no" to making solid-fuel rockets when I was in junior high. Her main objection was something about not blowing myself up. In dejection, I turned to water rockets. I remember the utter awe when my new creation absolutely disappeared from my hands hurling up into the sky in a violent burst of water and air. Looking up at that shrinking dot in the sky was the start of an incredible journey for me. After many hours of adrenaline-fueled research my rockets were flying high and straight. My hobby eventually took me to the International Science and Engineering Fair which led me to later become an engineer.

Fast forward about ten years and I am now a grown-up kid with little, curious, mad-scientist children of my own. It was only natural to initiate them into the water rocketry club! When I started the process of deciding on a design my mother's cautionary words rang truer than ever. I started asking myself, "How do I do this as safely and cheaply (...cough cough.. on a budget... cough) as possible?"

The other major design constraint I kept in mind was the desire to make the rocket and its launcher RIDICULOUSLY easy to build, transport, and launch. I wanted to be able to share the design with other dads out there who don't own a machine shop or have a supply of PVC cement on hand. My target user group was regular old Joes like me.

I am happy to say that my research and development has finally come to the point where I am now sharing my designs with you! Check out the short videos above to get an idea of how the design works. We even tested out some fun alternative fuels that had some surprising (and delicious) results!

If you are up for an explosively fun and (relatively) safe rocket experience, then grab some popcorn and buckle up as we chart your course into the water rocketry skies!

Step 1: Rugged Rocket Construction

I'll be honest, there are a ton of great designs out there for water rockets. There are even a number of instructables! They range from very simple to fairly complex to hardcore rocketry. The key difference that matters with my design is the high degree of rugged reliability and simple construction coupled with rocket performance.

Get started by collecting the following supplies and then watch the short build instructions video included above.

TIME / COST EXPECTATION FOR THIS STEP:
20 Minutes / $5 for supplies

Supplies

Tools

Step 2: Basic Hand Launcher Build

Now that I have told you this is safe let me explain that water rockets are only truly safe if you know they will not launch AT you. Hopefully this does not come as a surprise to you! My basic hand launcher allows you to easily launch the rocket by hand. I felt safe doing this because the design gave me great confidence that it would not unexpectedly go off. What makes this design safe is that the garden hose quick release mechanism is both easy and incredibly reliable. Other launchers out there are either unpredictable in performance or require complicated machining. Rugged, reliable and safe in it's simplicity is the beauty of this little device. Just don't point it at anyone!

TIME / COST EXPECTATION FOR THIS STEP:
15 Minutes / $15 for supplies

Supplies

Tools

Step 3: Launch Stand Assembly

I have made a number of launchers based on designs found on the internet and they always fail on one or more of the following points:

  • leak at higher pressures (resulting in a poor launch)
  • launch mechanism is difficult and unreliable to trigger (resulting in a directionally unpredictable launch)
  • the launch stand takes up too much space (resulting in me not wanting to store the launcher)

I've endeavored to address all of those points and feel pretty happy with the results. Who knew a rat trap could be repurposed this way! Take a look at the video for build instructions and follow the links below to source your parts through amazon.

TIME / COST EXPECTATION FOR THIS STEP:

15 Minutes / $10 for supplies

Supplies

Tools

Step 4: Launch! (and Lunch)

Water rockets make the perfect summer-weather project and our family definitely had a blast with them. ;-) Take a look at the time we tried out alternative fuels including the ingredients to make an ICE CREAM SUNDAE! Please feel free to ask questions and comment. Happy water rocket building!

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Thanks for joining us in this adventure! If you enjoy spending time with your kids and would appreciate fresh inspiration and instructions weekly, consider subscribing to my family-oriented youtube channel where I do a weekly project with my own kids. I would love to have you join our family in the making!

Blessings, Caleb

<p>You are definitely the cool dad. You are going to be the house that all the neighborhood kids will want visit.</p>

About This Instructable

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Bio: I love to make things and I love my kids. This usually results in me making things with my kids (and lovely wife). Here you ... More »
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