Getting Hot in Physics

Well, to say that today did not go as expected would be the understatement of the school year!

My Principles of Technology class has been working on building model rockets as part of a unit that was analyzing the physics concepts of impulse, velocity, and acceleration, the chemistry concept of balanced chemical equations/reactions, and the engineering concept of technical drawing/documentation.

Today was the day that we launched. We had 6 small single-stage rockets to launch in addition to 2 small two-stage rockets.

Each single-stage rocket was loaded with a single A-rated motor which would carry it to a total altitude of approximately 250 feet. Each two-stage rocket was loaded with two C-rated motors which would carry it to a total altitude of approximately 1,800 feet!

Before going outside, we verified the weather conditions, which showed winds from the west at 7 MPH with guests to 11 MPH. The humidity was 41% and dropping. We decided to launch from the west side of the property with the idea that the winds would carry the rockets onto the soccer fields which had recently been watered.

Rocket Launch Site
Rocket Launch Site

Our first launch of the morning performed as expected and came down next to the roadway by the launch site.

Our second launch of the day did not perform as well. The first stage of the rocket fired as designed and carried the rocket to around 900 feet. Unfortunately, the first stage did not properly separate as designed and the rocket began to tumble back to the ground.

After a few seconds, the second stage ignited which sent the rocket flying on the path it was pointing at, which was toward the ground west of our launch location and it ignited the cardboard frame of the first stage which was now in a free-fall into the field to the west of the launch location.

Rocket Crash Site
Rocket Crash Site

The rocket came down about 100 yards west of the launch pad and the first stage landed about 30 yards to the east of the crash site. Unfortunately, since the first stage was on fire when it landed and it landed in a field of 1 meter tall grass/hay, the field was quickly engulfed in fire.

Rocket Burn Area
Rocket Burn Area

Ultimately, the crash resulted in the burning of approximately 1 acre of grassland which is fortunately owned by the school.

Because of the quick response of the Ferris Fire Department, the fire was quickly contained and everyone was safe with the only loss being the grassland, the rocket launcher, and the rocket launch stand.

Burned Field
Burned Field
Burned Launcher in Grass
Burned Launcher in Grass
Burned Launcher Inside
Burned Launcher Inside

Water Bottle Rocketry

We started the school year in Principles of Technology with a bang – more like a blast!

The first project, right out of the gates, was soda-bottle water rockets. This was the introductory project for the course and for Unit 1 – Motion.

The class was broken into self-selected teams of 1 to 3. The class was given a complete 2-liter soda bottle and access to random materials from around the classroom. The teams were given 3 90-minute class sessions to brainstorm and complete their rocket designs.

Upon completion of the designs and following the launches, teams completed force diagrams and a post-launch analysis explaining why their rockets performed the way they did.

Here are the various rockets on the morning of the launches…