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Model Rockets by Aren, Jessica, and Mary Lynn

Blast off into space! Until we get our chance to travel in space, we build and fly model rockets here on Earth. We're designing a rocket to compete in a model rocket festival in Amarillo, Texas. Our question is: How can we design a rocket that reaches 1,600 feet?

What did we do?
We switched around parts of our rocket designs to see how these changes affected flight. Aren looked at the shape of the body. His first design had a wide body tube, so he tried a skinny one. Mary Lynn checked out a round nose cone shape and a pointy nose cone. Jessica tried two different fin sizes. Our rockets carried an onboard altimeter that tracked how high they flew.

What did we find out?
Aren's skinny rocket flew to 1390 feet, which was over 400 feet higher than the wide body one. Mary Lynn's rocket flew higher using the pointy nose cone rather than the round cone. Jessica's smaller fin design REALLY took off and we never saw it again! So, for the rocketfest we built a skinny rocket with a pointy nose cone and large fins. We called it "The Chosen One!" At the festival, it flew to 1,586 feet! To break 1,600 feet next time, we think we're going to try making our rocket lighter in weight.

What can you do?
  • Why not design your own rocket? Visit the National Association of Rocketry's Web site and find out about model rocket materials, design, competitions and more.
  • Everyone loves to blow up a balloon, let go of it and let it fly all over the place. Well, make a science experiment out of it! Find four equal size balloons and blow them up to four different sizes. Before you let the air out, tape a piece of straw to each balloon. Carefully thread some fish line through the straw and stretch the fishlike taut across the room. Bring the balloon to one end of the fish line, and then, let 'er fly! Measure the distance that each balloon flies. Does more air always mean more distance?
  • Hit the library or go online to look at rocket designs from the beginning of NASA's programs until now. How have the designs changed? Why? What improvements have been made? Were any features added in recent years or eliminated altogether?
  • Use this model rocket investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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