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ScienceXplosion - The Era of the Air Pump

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On this episode of ScienceXplosion, Eric makes a bottle rocket.

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Now it's your turn! Build your own air rocket

Use a pop bottle and other everyday materials to create a rocket that you can launch outdoors. 

Safety First 

Never fire a bottle rocket in the direction of another person, especially someone’s face.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

  • 600 mL pop bottle
  • Pencil
  • Plasticine
  • Cotton swab (e.g. Q-tip)
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper
  • Drinking straw (ideally a disposable cardboard one)
  • Tape
  • Circle tracer (or use a round object to trace one)

WHAT DO YOU DO?

  1. Roll the plasticine into a “walnut”-sized ball and press down with the heel of your hand to flatten.
  2. Place the plasticine across the opening of the bottle. Mold it around the outside of the bottle’s opening to form a seal.
Squeeze bottle rocket 1
Plasticine on bottle (© Let’s Talk Science).
  1. Poke the straw through the plasticine so that half of the straw is outside the bottle and half of the straw is inside the bottle. Mold the plasticine around the straw.
Squeeze bottle rocket 2
Straw pushed through plasticine (© Let’s Talk Science).
  1. Trace a circle that is 5 cm across on the paper. Cut out the circle. Then cut along a line to the centre of the circle.
Squeeze bottle rocket 3
Trace and cut out the circle. Cut to centre. (© Let’s Talk Science).
  1. Fold one flap over the other to form a cone. Use a small piece of tape to hold the paper cone together.
Squeeze bottle rocket 4
(Fold paper to form a cone shape© Let’s Talk Science).
  1. Cut a small hole at the point of the paper cone and fit the head of a cotton swab head through it.
Squeeze bottle rocket 5
(Cotton swab pushed through the paper cone© Let’s Talk Science).
  1. Place the cotton swab with its attached paper cone inside the top of the straw.
  2. Point your rocket away from yourself and other people and give the bottle a hard squeeze.
Squeeze bottle rocket 6
(Completed rocket ready for launch© Let’s Talk Science).

WHAT'S NEXT?

  • Measure how far your rocket can fly.
  • Make a target for your rocket. See how closely you can get your rocket to the centre of the target.
  • Listen for the terms “high pressure” and “low pressure” in a weather report.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

There is air inside the bottle before you squeeze it. And this air takes up space. When you squeeze the bottle, you are also squeezing the air inside the bottle. Air does not like to be squeezed, so it tries to move to an area where it isn’t squeezed so hard. In this case, that place is outside the bottle. When squeezed, the air rushes out through the straw and causes the rocket to push away from the bottle and “take off!”

Did you know?

Another word for squeezing is compression. When the air is squeezed hard, it is said to be compressed. 

Road worker with jackhammer and compressor
Road Worker with jackhammer and air compressor in the background (Wicki58 via iStockphoto).

 

 

Compressing air can be used to store and transfer energy. In this experiment you used energy from your muscles to compress the air. The energy is released when your rocket flies off. Similar principles are used in many tools and machines that use an air compressor. We use the term “pneumatic” to describe the tools and machines that use compressed air to do work.

WHAT ELSE?

 

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