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Science Rocks!

Alter The Rocket


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Sent in by:
Riki of Glen Mills, PA

As cool as the Simpsons on ice, it's rockets on wheels!

Materials Needed

  • 2 clear film canisters
  • 2 1/2 liter soda bottles
  • 2 corks that fit the opening of the soda bottle. If you can't find a cork that fits, try wrapping it in tape.
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • baking soda
  • squares of toilet paper
  • vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • strong tape
  • 2 toy cars with wheels that roll smoothly
  • safety glasses
  • watch with a second hand or a stop watch



  1. Check with an adult before you begin. This activity can get pretty messy, so make sure to do it outside.
  2. In this activity, you'll make rockets using two different kinds of containers, film canisters and soda bottles. You'll use different ingredients, vinegar and lemon juice, to make two different types of fuel too. You will make two of each type of rocket.
  3. To make a film canister rocket, roll a piece of construction paper around a film canister so that it makes a long tube. Tape the tube of paper to the film canister. Make sure that the cover for the film canister sticks out of one end of the tube.
  4. To make the nose cone for the rocket, cut a circle out of construction paper and cut a slit from the edge of the circle to the middle. Bend the circle into a cone by overlapping the edges of the slit you made and taping them in place. Then tape the cone to the long tube on the end opposite the film canister.
  5. To make a rocket with a soda bottle, make sure you have a cork that fits tightly into the top of the bottle.
  6. Make two of each kind of rocket, and then attach one of each type to the top of a toy car with strong tape. The rocket should be attached on its side to the top of the car, and the car's wheels should roll easily.
  7. To make the fuel for your rockets, you'll first need to make some baking soda fuel packets. To make the packet for the soda bottle rocket, measure 1 teaspoon of baking soda onto a square of toilet paper. To make the packet for the film canister rocket, layer 2 squares of toilet paper on top of each other and measure 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda onto them. Make the packets by wrapping the toilet paper squares around the baking soda so that it doesn't unfold too easily.
  8. The fuel cell for the film canister rocket is a baking soda packet and about 2 tablespoons of vinegar. The fuel cell for the soda bottle rocket is a baking soda packet and 1 cup of lemon juice. Before you fuel up your rockets, make some predictions about their performance. Which will go farther? Which will go faster? Think about which type of fuel cell you think is more powerful and which rocket body is lighter or more streamlined. Will the wheels make a difference in how far the rocket travels? How much of a difference?
  9. Remember that the body of the rocket (the soda bottle or film canister) and the cover for the opening (the cork or lid) will go in different directions. Is there anything you can do when you launch your rockets that will make both parts of the rocket travel in the same direction? Will this change how far the rocket travels? Decide which variables to compare. Write your predictions on a chart so that you can compare them later to your results.
  10. Get a friend to help you launch your rocket cars and record their performance results. You might want to mark a start and finish line on the ground or measure out and mark how far you think each rocket will go.
  11. Now, put on your safety glasses and make sure your friend is wearing a pair too. Before you launch your rockets, decide if you'd like to launch them one at a time or if you'd like to race them. Think about whether racing them or launching them one at a time will change the performance results. You could always try one way and then the other and compare those results, too.
  12. To fuel the soda bottle rocket, pour 1 cup of lemon juice into the bottle, then drop in the baking soda packet and press the cork into the opening.
  13. To fuel your film canister rocket, shove the baking soda packet into the bottom first, and then fill it 3/4 full of vinegar and press the cover on tightly.
  14. Step back and wait for blast-off. You won't have to wait long because the fuel cell ingredients react quickly. 3, 2, 1...!
  15. What happened? Be sure to measure and record your results. Then let us know what you discovered! How did your results compare with your predictions? Did any of your results surprise you? How? Did the rockets on wheels perform differently from the rockets without wheels? Why do you think there was or wasn't a difference? Were you able to get both parts of your rocket to move in the same direction? How did you make that happen?

Ready for the science scoop? When the lemon juice or vinegar reacts with the baking soda to form carbon dioxide, the gas pushes on the cover and it pushes on the inside of the rocket body. As long as the cover hasn't come off or out yet, the cover and body are pulling on each other and keeping each other still. When there is enough gas pushing inside the rocket, the cover and body are able to break free of each other and the cover goes in one direction and the body goes in the other.

Gravity acts differently when you launch a rocket on its side versus on its end. When a rocket is launched on its side, there is friction, which is caused by gravity pulling down on the rocket and the ground pushing up on the rocket. The pulling up and pushing down are equal forces, but it causes the two things (the rocket and the ground) to interact and to cause friction, which will slow the rocket down. Gravity does not work directly to slow the rocket down like it does when a rocket is launched on its end, but it does work indirectly through the friction.

Experiment with the rocket cars some more to see what else you can discover. Be sure you send your rocket discoveries to ZOOM!

Some of your Results

Christopher, age 9 of CA wrote:
I used baking soda and vinegar and then just plain h20 and b. soda and then d. pepsi and b. soda. The vinegar flew the highest. I did it for a science project at my school.

Julie, age 9 of Rialto, CA wrote:
it shot up so high I couldn't see it.

Alexa, age 8 of Old Bridge, NJ wrote:
It went up 93ft.

Jessica, age 11 of GA wrote:
it went 50 feet in the air.

Delaney, age 9 of Birmingham, AL wrote:
I discoverd that acid comparrisons can make Carbon dioxide (CO2).

Elisa, age 10 of Lansing wrote:
we did this in school but we didnt do it with bakeing soda we did it with alkaseltser and we used water and soda.

Kalyan, age 5 of Cahuita, Costa Rica wrote:
I did this for the science fair at my school in Costa Rica. The rockets blasted off really high and all the kids cheered and liked it. The ones on wheels were not as good... they didn't go very far. But the other ones were cool.

Katie, age 4 of Eagan wrote:
it shot in the sky.

Susannah, age 8 of Keokuk, IA wrote:
the lid flew high!!!

Emie, age 6 of Tampa wrote:
It went rilly fast.

Christina, age 11 of Ozark, MO wrote:
When I used vinegar or lemon juice I got a higher cork then grape or apple juice. Why is that?

Kevin, age 6 of Beijing wrote:
it just blowed bubbles, it did not work

Michelle, age 10 of Chicago, IL wrote:
when I put in vinigur mixed with baking soada it blased of so high!!!

Drashti, age 7 of Inglis, FL wrote:
The cork launched.

Laura, age 13 of Dallas, TX wrote:
when I read how to do this I thought it was not going to work but hey I was wrong it was awsome

Adriel, age 5 of Scottsdale, AZ wrote:
I crashed into a building.

Georgia, age 10 of Lindindhurst, IL wrote:
I invented A rocket lancher on this Monday at school.

Bianca, age 7 of Las Vegas, NV wrote:
the rocket went 12 feet high.

Michael, age 12 of CT wrote:
It was cool it went very fast and high

Dominic, age 7 of Tempe, AZ wrote:
The first two times it didn't even work. The last time we used a smaller bottle, shook it and the cork flew up into the air. We couldn't even see it. The fourth time, we put a parachute guy on top of the cork, it flew up and landed in dog poop. Gross!

Alex, age 8 of Laveen, AZ wrote:
it poped 5ft. high

Kylie, age 9 of Baton Rouge, LA wrote:
I choose to use coke, orange juice, and some other things. Fourteen worked three didn't. It was a fun expeireince (I don't know how to spell expireince). It was really fun and I am glad that I watched ZOOM. Thanks ALOT.

Edmond, age 10 of New York City, NY wrote:
It flew bout almost 20 yards and I added more to make it 30 yards it was awesome when I did it in the park

Quiana, age 14 of Chciago, IL wrote:
nothing happen I try 5 times but I just stop and worte y'all so bye.

Ly, age 7 of Garden Grove wrote:
The rocket blast to 500 feet

Emery, age 12 of El Paso, TX wrote:
It came right away! put baking soda, lime soda, viniger. well I first shakted it, it came up and all the stuff came out!!!

Sashay, age 11 of Philadelphia, PA wrote:
When I did my invention my resaults were amazing!

Jamee, age 12 of Lawler, IA wrote:
It blew up into the air it was so cool!

Brandi, age 9 of Memphis wrote:
It went far.

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