Fireworks stands are making their annual appearance in my neighborhood. The Fourth of July is almost here.
I started thinking. What if you live in an area where fireworks are prohibited? What if you are wary of handling extremely hot explosive devices? Are there any alternatives that deliver the same kind of thrill as setting off a firework and watching it soar into the sky?
YES! Air Powered Rocket Launchers!
A couple of years ago I discovered a rocketry unit for educators developed by NASA. I will be highlighting the activity, Pop! Rockets. This activity requires adult supervision and safety glasses.
The Pop! Rocket Launcher is simple to make and easy to use. Kids love this launcher because they get to stomp on a plastic bottle to make their rockets shoot into the sky. To get the instructions, click on this link Pop! Rocket Launcher. You may also want to click on this video link, Build a Pop Rocket Launcher, so you can see how everything is put together and how it works.
Just in case you don’t believe me when I say this is a pretty simple activity, I am including the short list of supplies you need to build the launcher.
- Empty (and rinsed) 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle
- Two 1/2″ PVC tee connectors
- One 1/2″ PVC connector
- Two 1/2″ PVC caps
- One 5′ length of 1/2″ PVC pipe (that will be cut into smaller pieces)
- Duct tape
- In order to cut the PVC pipe you will need a PVC cutter or saw
- Eye protection for anyone near the launcher
All of these items are easy to find. Get the 2-liter bottle from the grocery store, and take the shopping list included in NASA’s instructions to your local hardware store. The shopping list is on page 65. There are pictures and descriptions of the supplies you need which is very helpful. Don’t forget to add on PVC cutter or saw if you don’t already have one. Maybe you can ask the folks at your hardware store to cut the PVC pipe into the sizes you need. I don’t know. They just might do it for you.
NASA provides two rocket templates that you can work with. They are on pages 70 and 71. I make things more interesting for my students. I require them to design fins for their rockets using a template I made in MS Word. Here is a link that allows you to download the template that I use with my students, Pop Rocket Template. Watch my video, Design Your Pop Rocket, to get a better idea of how this works. Once you have your rocket design ready, it’s time to build your rocket. Click on Pop! Rockets to find a link to the NASA instructions. If you would like to see a video, click on Build a Pop Rocket.
Get creative. Decorate your rocket before printing it out. You can add embellishments by adding fancy text and clip art. It is also fun to color the rockets using markers. My mom came up with a good idea too. She suggests using glow in the dark paint and stickers in anticipation for night time launches.
3, 2, 1 Blast Off!
It’s time to launch your rocket. Don’t forget your safety glasses. Try aiming your rocket in different directions, aim for targets, and create your own rocket games. Click on this link, Pop Rocket Launch, to see an instructional video.