This is the question a group of five year olds in Room 15 has been investigating as part of their Fantastic Forces inquiry.
First, the group completed a brainstorm to record their initial ideas about rockets and how they fly. Then each student drew a diagram showing their own interpretation of a rocket and how they think it works.
Oliver: I think a bomb lets off some gas that will burn a little bit and make the rocket go up.
Phoebe: I think some wind will blow and lift up the rocket.
Brock: I think the fire blasts the rocket up and the wings help it fly.
Following this, the students watched a short video about rockets and what is needed to make them fly. The class came to the conclusion that a rocket needs some kind of pressure (caused by burning fuel or hot gas) that will push it up into the air. This got everybody thinking about how they could make their own rockets without access to petrol or fuel.
Phoebe suggested using an empty plastic bottle, which everybody thought was a great idea. However, everyone was still unsure of how they could make a plastic bottle launch into the air like an actual rocket. There was lots of discussion about what could be used to create enough pressure inside the bottle rocket to lift it off the ground.
Georgia: We need something that is like gas inside the bottle.
Ziah: We could use a bike pump for the air inside.
Preston: We should put some water in the bottle too.
Eventually, everyone decided to partially fill an empty bottle with water and use a bike pump to create air pressure inside the bottle. The air being pumped into the bottle would simulate the pressure of hot gas (caused by burning fuel in a real rocket), and the water would simulate the fire that shoots out the bottom (a reaction to pressure inside the rocket that then propels it upwards).
There was still more to think about though, like what other features do rockets have and why?
Ben: Our rockets will need wings, or they won’t fly properly.
Emma: We need a pointy bit at the top of the rocket.
Segev: The top needs to be a triangle shape so the rocket can go through the air easily.
Each student set to work drawing a plan for their own bottle rocket with the aim of launching it at the end of the process. Once they were happy with their plans and could explain why they had drawn certain features, the students began making and decorating their rockets.
Finally the rockets were ready for launching!
On launching day, the students and Mrs Ewen set up the pump and waited for the rockets to blast off!
We were all amazed at how high their rockets flew.
Watch our video.
After the final rocket had been launched, the class reflected on the process and thought about what they would do differently next time.
Anna: Flying the rockets was cool because my rocket went so high and the water came shooting out of the bottom.
Emma: We needed to make our rockets stronger, so they didn’t break.
Phoebe: Maybe we could have used strong sellotape for the wings instead of glue.
Overall, each student rated their bottle rocket a roaring success!
Keywords: Phunky Physics, forces, rockets
Curriculum Links: Science- Physical World, Technology