Introduction: Rubberband Slingshot Rocket

About: More than 14 pulsating exhibits make the Children's Museum of Houston one of the top rated in the country. Packed with daily activities and invigorating performances, it’s the place where minds come out to pl…

This is one of the 48 projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston showing from May 26, 2012 - November 4, 2012. Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

For this project, we were inspired by the Teach Engineering Slingshot Rocket Instructable created by WYE_Lance but there may be others on Instructables that are also similar. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!

Step 1: What You Need:

We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!
  • 1 – Cap eraser
  • 1 – Standard paperclip
  • 1 – 3” x 5” Index card
  • 1 – Rubber band, #19
  • 1 – Normal craft stick
  • 1 – Drinking straw
  • Masking Tape
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Needle Nose Pliers (optional)

Step 2: The Video

We offer optional video segments of each step for this project in the actual exhibit. Here is a compilation of all the steps.

Step 3: Make the Nosecone

Insert one end of the straw into the cap eraser. Tape in place.

Step 4: Add the Hook

Use the needle nose pliers to bend down the tip of the larger end of the paper clip. You can also just use your fingers in many cases. Tape the paper clip with the bent end sticking away the straw just behind the cap eraser.

Step 5: Add Fins

Fold the index card in half. Make a crease and unfold. Cut along the crease. Use the ruler to draw a diagonal line across both pieces of index card. Cut along the lines so you have four triangles. These are the fins of the rocket. Place a piece of tape on either side of the longer, straight edge of one of the triangles. Stick it to the opposite end of the straw from the cap eraser, about an inch from the tip. Repeat steps for the other triangles so they are evenly spaced around the straw.

Step 6: Make the Slingshot Launcher

Tape the rubber band to one tip of the craft stick using two pieces of tape, one on top of the other.

Step 7: To Launch Your Rocket

To launch, hold the rocket by the straw below the fins. Hook the rubber band with the paper clip and pull back. AIM AWAY FROM PEOPLE. As you let go of the rocket, flick the craft stick forward.

The energy the rocket needs for flight comes from the rubber band. Rubber bands are elastic, meaning that, when stretched, they return to their original shape. When you stretch the rubber band, there is a lot of energy stored in the rubber band. When you let go of the rocket, the rubber band returns to its original shape, pulling the rocket with it. This transforms the stored energy into the rocket’s motion.

To change this up, try using other shapes for the fins. Or, change the number, location, or even the angles of the fins. OR, try different rubber bands. The engineering/tinkering options are tremendous. Have fun!

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