Introduction: Model Rocket LED Glow Effects

This is my entry into the Let it Glow Contest. If you like it, please vote.

Now that school, and therefore finals, are done I can finally finish this Instructable. It has been waiting to be completed for about a month now but I've been so busy with other things that I waited till the last hour to finish this Instrcutable and enter it in to the contest.

Model rockets are cool and lots of fun. The same applies to LED's and other simple electronics. So you now wonder, why not combine the two. Well, here I will combine the two, and also feed everyone's secret addiction to fire (you know it's true) by adding LED Glow effects to a high flying model rocket.

Step 1: Gather Materials

To do this, you will need:

  • Model rocket
  • 3 10mm LED's (colors may vary)
  • 3 3032 coin cell batteries
  • Wire
  • Soldering supplies
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Electrical tape
  • Exacto knife
  • Razor blade (unless you want to cover your Exacto with hot glue)
  • Small saw (optional)
  • File (helpful)
  • Mini butane blowtorch (or jet (windproof) lighter)

Step 2: Building the Rocket

If your rocket is already built then skip this step. If not, build the rocket now following the instructions that it came with. I built this rocket from one of the mostly pre-made kits (yes, I know, not a real rocketeer) but any rocket will do.

Step 3: Cutting

My rocket had 2 indents on the side of the nose so I decided to light them, as well as the tip. Start by using your Exacto knife to cut two holes, the size of your LED's, in the sides of the nose. Also cut off the very tip of your rocket's nose. Make sure your LED's fin in the holes you made snugly. Use your fingers, and file if necessary, to get all the plastic "fuzzies" or burs off your work.

Step 4: Wiring the Electronics

Solder your LED's in series (with enough wire in between each so they can reach their position in the nose of the rocket) with the switch and two leads to be attached to the battery. To do all of this, first find the polarity of each LED and bend one of the leads (the same side for each LED) outward. Then solder all the components according to the diagram. Cover everything in electrical tape to keep it from falling apart, then continue.

Step 5: Attach Batteries

I tested several ways of attaching the batteries to the circuit, but due to size constraints had to stick with electrical tape. Wrap tape tightly around the sides of your batteries and cut the excess off. Then tape the two leads to the respective positive and negative terminals of the batteries. Make sure this is done well so the tape does not come loose mid-flight. Test the electronics now and fix any problems, because it will be a lot more difficult when they are glued into place.

Step 6: Filling the Rocket

Insert the LED's into the holes that you cut earlier, the batteries in the nose of the rocket, and the switch in it's respective hole. Try to make the LED's flush with the body, if it they are not, it's ok, they will look better with some hot glue.

Step 7: Hot Glue

I will admit, this step caused me many problems, mainly with finding a way to shape the hot glue. I experimented with many ways of shaping the glue and doing so while not melting the rocket itself. This is the method that I found works the best.

First fill the cavity in the nose of the rocket entirely with hot glue. Quickly, before the glue dries, grab your razor blade (not Exacto knife) and use it to smooth out the glue and to remove excess glue. To do this, slide the blade, applying constant speed and pressure, down the hot glued area to create a smooth surface. Start the blade at the LED and slide it to end of the cavity. When applying the hot glue, be sure to provide enough glue to hold the LED in place. Once the glue is dry, if it is necessary, to create a perfectly smooth surface use the small butane torch (not the big blowtorch!) to remelt the glue and let it dry. Also, using some hot glue, secure the LED at the very tip of the nose in its place. Glue the switch it its place now, but make sure that it can still work.

Step 8: Finishing

The last thing you need to do before you are ready to launch is glue the rocket nose back together. Use ample glue to glue the 2 portions of the nose back together and get ready to launch.

Step 9: Launch

Here is a video of the launch. I launched this rocket twice and it was my first (and certainly not last) nighttime launch.



Note: During the first test, my camera's drop detection feature triggered while I was running and shut the camera off. The footage jumped to where we recovered the rocket.
Let It Glow!

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