after school program for middle schoolers

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Well-Known Member
Nov 23, 2010
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I'm going to be putting on an after school program on rockets at our local library for some middle school kids next month. I have some ideas, but I'd like to get suggestions for things I can do with the kids. I'd like to have some hands-on activities that will get the kids interested and teach them a bit about rockets. It will probably all have to be indoors, though I'm trying to figure out how I can do a demo launch in the very small space available outside the library.

Let me know if you have any ideas I can try, and especially if you have done something like this before.


Jonathan Sivier
Secretary, Central Illinois Aerospace
NAR Section #527
jsivier AT illinois DOT edu
NAR #56437 | Tripoli #1906
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google 'artapplewhite' his 13mm pyramids tend to go about 50' into the air and land next to the pad, and the price is right:).
PVC + 2 litre bottles + ream of paper = stomp rockets.

Photocopy some fin shapes & conical nosecones of various lengths.

Photocopy a protractor for the older kids, add a string & a nut from the hardware store & have them estimate the apogee.
I'm doing something like this next week for a girls science camp. We make simple sugar rockets using KNO3 and powdered sugar. They just look like large bottle rockets when we're done, so the science is more about the chemistry of rocket fuels than about the engineering involved in rocket design.

We talk about how the sugar is the fuel and the KNO3 provides the oxygen that makes it burn very rapidly. It takes the girls about an hour to build the motors and then we then launch them outside in an open area.

I've done the demo for two years, and it is a lot of fun. PM if you want to know more details.
Possibly a bit advanced, but what about something like this: Bring in a fan and a cardboard-cutout rocket profile (maybe a few? One with almost no fins, one with reasonable fins, one with huge fins), each mounted on a nail on a piece of wood. Show how the fins keep the rocket pointed into the wind.

Seriously, I never learned this as a kid and hadn't given it much thought beyond "well, rockets have fins to help keep them stable".... it was only when I got back into rocketry as an adult I had an OH OKAY, THAT'S WHY moment when reading a discussion of the (very basic) physics of rockets.