Straw Rockets in Flight! Engineer's Delight

J. Scott Misner

Isaac E. Young Middle School, New Rochelle, NY

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2008



Time: 2 periods (1.5 hours)

Level: Sixth Grade

Materials: Precision straw

3" x 5" index card

small piece of clay

several pieces of tape




graph paper

Article: 106 mpg 'air car' creates buzz, questions

SmartBoard (optional)

Senteo Clickers (optional)


1)      Students will work cooperatively with a partner to create a rocket.

2)      Students will understand how air compression can power the rocket.

3)      Students will compare and contrast air compression in a rocket and in a newly designed car.

4)      Students will graph their results and for conclusions from their data.


Have students look at the above picture and ask them what fin design do they believe will make their rocket launch the furthest?  Discuss the answers with the class and explain to them that we will be building straw rockets and using air compression to launch them.

Development of Lesson:

Next, place a picture of a rocket with the parts of the rocket separated from the rocket itself on the Smartboard.  Have students move the parts of the rocket to its correct area.  Discuss as a class what each part does. 

Next, add new words and their definition for a word wall.  These words may include: compression, fuel, pressure, fuselage, fin, aerodynamic, and rocket.

Have students break into partners.  In partners students will discuss and sketch a design for their rocket with the objective being longest distance.  They will then get the materials and build their rocket.  The students will have fifteen minutes to complete this step.

Once the students are complete we will head to the gym and launch the rockets.  Students will write down the distance of the rocket in the lab report.  All students will launch from three different angles. 30o 45o and 60o. 

Once students finished writing down their results we’ll head back to the classroom and graph the results.  We will then discuss which rocket went the furthest and why, and which angle averaged out the furthest and why. 


The students will take out the Senteo clickers and answer 5-10 multiple choice questions that deal with our lesson.  For example “What part of a rocket is the body?” a) nose  b) fin  c) gauge   d) fuselage


Hand out article titled 106 mpg 'air car' creates buzz, questions,  which can be found at  The students will actively read the article and answer the following questions:


1)             How is this car similar to our rocket?  How is it different?

2)             Does this car run solely on air?

3)             What does MPG mean?

4)             How fast can the car go?

5)             Design your own car.  Make sure to include a source of fuel.


New York State Standards

S1.1a  Formulate questions about natural phenomena

S1.1  Formulate questions independently with the aid of references appropriate for guiding the search for explanations of everyday observations.

S1.2  Construct explanations independently for natural phenomena, especially by proposing preliminary visual models of phenomena.

S1.2b  Propose a model of a natural phenomenon

S1.2c  Differentiate among observations, inferences, predictions, and explanations

T1.3  Consider constraints and generate several ideas for alternative solutions, using group and individual ideation techniques (group discussion, brainstorming, forced connections, role play); defer judgment until a number of ideas have been generated; evaluate (critique) ideas; and explain why the chosen solution is optimal.