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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Forces, Newton's law of motion
Learning Objectives
  • Understand how Newton's laws of motion apply to rocket flight
  • Use the engineering design process to optimize a rocket design

Overview

Learn about real space flight and Newton's laws of motion with this fun lesson! This new twist on a classic project lets your students build a multi-stage balloon rocket that they can launch across the classroom.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS2-2. Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
  • MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.
PS2.A: Forces and Motion. The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors.
Cause and Effect. Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Patterns. Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

Materials


Materials to build two stage balloon rocket

Materials per group of 2–4 students:

  • Modeling balloons (2), available from Amazon.com. These are the long, skinny kind of balloons used to make balloon animals. Have some extras ready in case some balloons pop.
  • Balloon pump (included with the balloons from Amazon.com, can be shared among multiple groups)
  • Milkshake straws (2), available from Amazon.com
  • One inch section cut from cardboard paper towel tube
  • Fishing line or smooth string, available from Amazon.com (one spool should be enough for entire class)
  • Large binder clips (2)
  • Clear tape or masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Forces, Newton's law of motion
Learning Objectives
  • Understand how Newton's laws of motion apply to rocket flight
  • Use the engineering design process to optimize a rocket design

Class Materials