Participants create their very own rocket ship using upcycled materials to explore the properties of flight!
- Paper lunch bag
- Two paper clips
- String (10 feet)
- Two chairs
At-Home or In-Classroom Instructions
- Gather all materials and tie the string between two chairs. Pull the chairs apart so that the string is taut.
- Attach the bag to the stretched string by hooking two paperclips on the top and back of the paper bag onto the string.
- Place the balloon inside the paper bag and inflate it. Clamp the neck closed with a clothespin so that air does not escape until the rocket is ready to launch.
- Begin your countdown (five…four…three…two…one) and unclamp the clothespin to launch the rocket.
- Observe how the balloon travels in a straight line on the taut string. The string is acting as a guidance system to control the direction of the balloon rocket.
What Are We Learning?
To efficiently and effectively launch a spaceship, you must know a bit about the science behind flight. This experiment investigates concepts of flight including lift, thrust and air pressure. How does a rocket blast off, go in a different direction and travel farther? The rocket created in this activity moved in a straight line using the string as its guidance system. A real rocket either uses small rocket bursts to guide it in a new direction or has small rockets attached to its sides that can power a move in a new direction by firing at specified times.
The balloon rocket is powered by the air moving from the nozzle of the balloon which pushes the balloon forward, demonstrating the concept of thrust. Air comes out of the neck of the balloon at one end of the rocket and thrusts it forward. This is similar to a real rocket that uses fuel shooting out towards the ground and thrusting the rocket into space.
One way to make the balloon rocket go farther would be to add more fuel (air) to the balloon to increase the time it can move. To rise from the ground, an object must have an upward force
strong enough to overcome the downward pull of the force of gravity. Speculate about how much lift and thrust are needed to get a spacecraft into orbit.