A STEM Partnership and Rocketry
This is my second year as one of the teachers of OESD 114’s Olympic STEM Pathways Partnership (OSPP). This past summer we got to work with UW Earth Science professors through a NASA-funded consortium! One of the activities we engaged in was rocketry. We got to build bottle rockets and launch them! It was so much fun! They encouraged us to have our students build and launch bottle rockets and since I teach physical science it seemed a perfect fit to our study of forces and motion.
At the summer training we looked at the NGSS Standards that align to rocketry and bottle rockets in particular. Here’s what I found on the Middle School Physical Science Storyline for Forces:
“The performance expectations in PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions focuses on helping students understand ideas related to why some objects will keep moving, why objects fall to the ground and why some materials are attracted to each other while others are not. Students answer the question, “How can one describe physical interactions between objects and within systems of objects?” At the middle school level, the PS 2 Disciplinary Core Idea from the NRC Framework is broken down into two sub – ideas: Forces and Motion and Types of interactions. By the end of middle school, students will be able to apply Newton’s Third Law of Motion to relate forces to explain the motion of objects. Students also apply ideas about gravitational, electrical, and magnetic forces to explain a variety of phenomena including beginning ideas about why some materials attract each other while others repel.”
NGSS MS-PS2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
For the Motion and Stability standard the performance expectation MS-PS2-2, “Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object,” seemed the best fit for bottle rockets.
I also chose to focus students on the following performance expectation, 3-PS2-1, “Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.”
In order to launch bottle rockets with students we needed a few things. Families are really good about donating 2L soda bottles and I collected cardboard for weeks and gathered masking tape, construction paper and thicker cardstock. Kids were also encouraged to bring whatever else they might need. Some kids brought colorful duct tape, for example. With one of the UW professor’s help I asked my principal if we could purchase the equipment we would need to this and he approved it so we bought the following:
That’s it! With shipping and tax it all cost $137! Not bad at all.
Building the Rockets
I didn’t want to structure the building of the Bottle Rockets like I did the Bottle Flipping lab so kids did not use the Inquiry Boards. We did it more like a Makerspace where I provided the materials, gave them some websites to research (this one and this one to get them started), then let them create.
On launch day we went out to the football field and had a blast! The most difficult part was having kids use the altitude trackers. They seemed pretty easy enough. I showed the kids how to use the tracker, gave them a clipboard to record the altitudes, then let them handle it. I ordered two trackers and had two kids gather data to make sure the data was at least close. The trackers I bought are to be used at 500 ft from the bottle rockets for high flying rockets. We were on a football field and didn’t have 500 ft so we launched from the 50 yard line and had the trackers at the end zones. If you use the altitude trackers at 250 ft you need to divide the altitude by two so I did that even though it wasn’t exact. It was all just to see which rockets went the highest so it was all good.
Here’s some footage of the launches:
After the launch students were to write a CER Conclusion to figure out what made their rocket fly the way it did. Once we narrow some variables down we will go back out and get more deliberate about having only one manipulated variable, such as the amount of water in the bottle, to see how that affects how high the rocket goes.
Here are a few CER Conclusions that kids have already written:
“We launched a bottle rocket that had water in it. We pumped air into it so that the air pressure would make it go high. My claim is that the less water you have the rocket will go higher. My evidence is that my rocket was half full and it went up 29 meters, Shelby and Brody’s rocket was ¼ full of water and it went up 43 meters. I think this happened because there was more air in their rocket so there was more pressure for the rocket to go higher up. My evidence supports my claim because it shows that their rocket had less water and it went higher and my rocket had more water and didn’t go as high.”
“We created our own bottle rockets with a cone, wings and some water to put in the rocket, then we launched them. My claim is I learned that the more water you have works better than less water. My evidence is when I launched my rocket I saw that the people that had more water went up higher and the ones with less did not go as high. I think this happened because the more water you have the longer it can keep pushing the rocket higher and higher if you don’t have that much water all your water will not last as long. My evidence supports my claim because it is evidence that I got to see myself.”
“We launched bottle rockets in the football field. My claim is that the rocket turns the way that the wind blows. My evidence is our bottle rocket turned and flew to the direction the wind was blowing. I think this happened because the bottle rocket is light and strong winds can blow most light things in the direction that it is blowing. My evidence supports my claim because when the wind blew a CERtain way (hahaha) the bottle rocket flew the same way.”
The amount of water in the bottle is an easy variable to change and seems the most popular one that students noticed. Pretty cool!