Thanksgiving Rocket

Yeah, sooooo....you might have noticed that this did not make it up before Thanksgiving! Well, sometimes, life is messy, just like science, and things happen. Well, in this case it didn't! However, I am still going to post it because this is really cool and we do have Christmas, Chanukah (yes, it is spelled with a C!!), Kwanzaa and New Years...which means, you will have plenty of time to spend with relatives!!! Anyway, here it is...I hope you enjoy it!!!

So….Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the things that we have and those we love. I give thanks for my husband, Randy, my puppies (my infamous, opposable thumb-lacking assistants) Dawson, Boomer and Colt, my job at the Mayborn Science Theater and of course, my family and friends! But, I am also thankful for something else…SCIENCE!

Yes, I am thankful for science. It is everywhere! I was working in my yard yesterday and looked around and I was surrounded by science—the metal cutters I was using (levers) to cut the metal fabric (chemistry) to put on the bottom of my shed to keep bunnies (natural environment and biology) from getting under it and getting into my garden (botany, chemistry, physics, environmental science, physical science, biology, entomology, mammalogy)! I have to say, I was amazed when I thought about it. And, very thankful!


Anyway, I was thinking about Thanksgiving’s past and was thinking how cool it would have been had I thought to do some of these experiments when I was a kid on thanksgiving. Think about it, you are waiting around, bored, watching TV, waiting to eat or go someplace, getting in the way of whomever is cooking…so, I thought to myself, Self, let me help others have some science fun! So, here goes!

Newton’s Third Law of Motion (yes, my grammar friends, this is a proper title and needs to be capitalized—I checked on it!) states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.”

Okay…seems straightforward, right? If you push on something, it will push back. Kind of like when you push your parents to get something and they push back and say no, you’re grounded? Yeah, kind of something like that! Anyway, I digress…


Okay, so we know what the law is, so let’s put it into action. With rockets. No, not real rockets, well, kind of real, I mean not real real, but not not real real! You understand?


So, everything I needed I had at home. I used the following things: a straw, a piece of string, tape, a long balloon (the rocket), a clothes pin (a gator clip will work also), a lot of hot air (provided by me!), and an assistant (Elissa is the other hand in the pictures!). 


First, I took a length of string (I used surveyor’s string because I had it on hand. Fishing line or cotton string would work also, but avoid sisal twine…to many fibers sticking out) and stretched it out across our rotunda in our building, 152, the Mayborn Science Theater. It is a really cool place. It has all of the planets imbedded into the floor and all kinds of information about them…sorry, it’s that digression thing again!

Anyway, we used a chair at either end and taped the line to the chairs. And then, promptly untapped one end so we could thread the straw onto the string! Then we taped the ends to the string. Note, I am using a masking tape. This type of tape will usually not leave residue and, ergo, not upset the parental units! 

 

Wow, just realized how dark these photos are! Hmm...work on photography skills on the list. Check!

Next, we blew up the balloon. Elissa also blew one up…literally! In the rotunda, it was LOUD!!! Anyway, I blew up the balloon and used the clothes pin to clip the end. That way, we can work without holding it and we have a launching device…trust me, it will make sense in a second!

Then, we taped the balloon to the straw. Now, I could have gotten really scientific about it all and taken measurements and recorded data…but I didn’t! Sorry…I highly encourage you to, however. This would make a great science fair experiment! 

 

Okay, so now comes the fun part! We release the rocket and see how far it goes!

One...

Two...

And GO!!!!

Okay, so here is the video we took of it. The audio is not great, but it's more fun to actually see this in action!

And off it goes! So, what you are seeing here is force in motion. You see, as the air comes out of the balloon (a contained unit) it pushes on the air that surrounds balloon. As the air pushes out, it moves the balloon away from that point on the path of least resistance (along the string) until there is no more force (i.e. the air is out of the balloon). Think about it this way. A rocket, on the launch pad, is at rest--not moving. When you push on the ground with the air produced by the engines (thrust), the rocket must go somewhere, so it goes in the opposite direction of the force--UP! For every action (engines starting, producing thrust) there is an equal but opposite reaction (rocket going up at same rate of speed as thrust going out!)

Well, sorry this got out late, but better late then never, and besides, it will give you time to practice before that special cousin comes back over! Let me know how your trials of this experiment went and what you thought of it!

Untill then, happy Science!!! 

 
 

 

Educational Blogger

About the Educational Blogger

Emma Merlo studied theater and music at Austin College for four years, and toured nationally with the Missoula Children’s Theater for two years.  She has taught kids all over the US from age 2 to age 18. She loves science education and especially space!