I helped the fourth graders at Wilder Elementary test their rocket designs today. Watch the video below from last year to see what this interactive lesson is all about.
Earlier in the week, the students watched the movie October Sky, based on Homer Hickam’s novel, Rocket Boys. I then explained the science behind building rockets and gave them some demonstrations of Newton’s Laws.
Then the young engineers took over. Their homework assignment – build your own rocket.
Using an air-powered PVC launcher, students placed their homemade rocket on the launch pad and began the countdown. After they watched their rocket launch, the students had the opportunity to go back into the classroom and modify and improve upon their design before another launch attempt.
This project inspires students to work hard to see their dreams come true and to introduce and reinforce skills and concepts in some very creative ways.
The lesson is from the U.S. Space Camp and Space Academy for Educators in an effort to bring the exploration of space and rocketry into a wide variety of classrooms.
Have you signed up for your school’s science fair but haven’t picked a science fair project? Or are you thinking about joining your science fair but don’t know where to start?
Participating in the science fair is an amazing opportunity to learn about the scientific method, ask questions, explore, make new discoveries and gain an understanding of how science works.
The start to a great science fair project is asking questions. Performing an experiment is not a science fair project.
To find a science fair project, browse through the experiment library and start asking questions like “why does it work that way,” “what if I did it this way?”
For example, dropping Mentos into Diet Coke is not a science fair project. It’s a science demonstration. Asking questions like “what temperature of Diet Coke will make the tallest geyser,” or “what soda makes the shortest geyser?” are good science fair projects.
The Tea Bag Rocket is really an adaptation of a classic science demonstration called the Ditto Paper Rocket. If you’re old enough to have experienced Ditto paper, you’ll recall the bluish-purple ink and that unforgettable smell of freshly printed copies. (Come to find out… both the Ditto machine solvent and the ink were highly toxic, but no one seemed to care back then.) Each piece of Ditto paper had a sheet of tissue paper that separated the two-part form, and it was this discarded piece of paper that kids used to make the “rocket.” Since Ditto paper is a thing of the past, science teachers found a simple replacement – a tea bag.
It’s a really cool science puzzle… balancing a pile of nails on the head of a stationary nail. I’ve always liked this puzzle because it gets kids thinking about the center of gravity. In this video, we substituted the small, table-top version of the set-up for a dozen large nails – like the kind you would use for landscaping. Mark Koebrich was surprised by the solution, but I was surprised to see how much he liked the dumb balancing bird demo. Just goes to show you that you never know which ideas are going to stick.
If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you undoubtedly remember George Costanza’s double-dip chip episode where he takes a chip, dips it, take a bite and dips it again – the famous double-dip. The best line in the whole episode comes from the guy at the party who confronts George and says, “When you take a chip… just take one dip and end it!” When my son, Jack, saw the episode, the light bulb went on and a science fair project was born. Of course, this science-loving 5th grader isn’t the first to come up with such a test, but Jack wasn’t afraid to challenge others who’ve come up with the conclusion that the act of double-dipping your chip is no big deal. And the conclusion… you’ll have to look at the Petri Pudding picture below to see for yourself (hint: don’t double dip!)
If you’re looking for a cool science fair project, take a look at Jack’s Double-Dip Chip Challenge. Jack used Comic Life software on his iMac to present his science fair project in a more eye-catching style than the traditional tri-fold board format. This, too, was a little experiment to see if more people would stop by the table and view the project… and it worked. Please understand that he had permission to depart from the “standard” format, but the results are very cool. Download a PDF of Jack’s Double-Dip Chip Challenge.