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.

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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.

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    51 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I built an Ventris and put 4 LEDs on the fins, a mid, and a blinky on the nosecone. Yet to fly but it will be nice when it does.


    6 years ago

    Awesome idea man! Looks great! One question tho, do the parasite gliders work good? I heard they are cheaply made and dont fly very well. I might buy one but thats holding me back. Pleez reply Thnx :)


    10 years ago on Step 9

    Very cool, i liked it a lot. Keep it up!


    10 years ago on Step 7

    you could have went with a 2 part plastic mix that makes a clear "cast" of anything you set it in.... drill into it a bit to set the leds to make sure its a good fit... and to make sure it would be clear all you would need to do is b4 perminitly setting the LEDs in place you would use a clear coat of finger nail polish. It helps to know these things when doing mods _... btw using hot glue could be useful on the desent back to the ground because it is a rubber type substance.


    10 years ago on Step 6

    i would have rather used an ultra bright blue LED at the tip so it could be seen going up @ night along with the side blue lights.... nice mod btw im impressed so faR!


    10 years ago on Step 9

    its a good job , but i want to know the device that give the thurst firce to the rocket to launch , and where i can buy it ? thanks johny

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 9

    That would be a model rocket motor. They can be found at hobby stores, or sometimes in the toy section of Walmart. Best of luck!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    the red laser in a regular CD drive can be seen by the naked eye


    10 years ago on Introduction

    OH MY GOD I think I used to have that rocket, gone now. Ahh childhood D:


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I am going to try something similar to this with the Estes customizer set except making it so I could put it in the clear payload section of the model and another idea that you could try is to get a cheap and light weight green laser pointer and somehow rig it to the model rocket so if you fly it at night you could follow the laser beam to find the rocket while it is in the air or on the ground after it comes back down.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    yea i have loads of old CD drives it wouldn't be hard to salvage the laser i supose


    10 years ago on Introduction

    someone is going to be like "Holy guacamole it's a UFO!"


    10 years ago on Introduction

    what is the function of the benz0matic lighter????? and how you launch the rocket huh????? can u explain more to me how to launch the rocket thanx..... i hope u will k

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The large (blue) propane is not used, but it was photographed because I tried it as a method of remelting the hot glue to make it look smooth. To launch the rocket, follow the instructions in the paperwork that came with the rocket. If you don't have that paperwork, reply, and I will post a picture of them for you.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    can u post to me the paperwork and the .... yhe important is where can i get the rocket engine.....

    5, 3, 2, 1. Four sounds too similar to "FIRE!" which is only said/shouted if something that shouldn't be is on fire, e.g. the grass.