Outdoor science gets a bang with these 5 DIY rockets for kids to celebrate the Fourth of July. Indeed, this post is part of an educational Free Unit Studies series and this week’s theme is Fourth of July. Rockets are a staple of national day celebrations as much as fireworks, flags and marching bands. They’ll necessarily be part of festivities at some point. Since you need to be outside to launch home-made rockets, rockets + DIY = outdoor fun for the whole family!
You will love that these rockets can made with materials that you probably already have in your kitchen cupboards and your craft box. As you will see, rocket science really isn’t all that difficult.
#1 Vitamin C DIY Rocket
You probably have Vitamin C tablets at home for your kids, but if you have effervescent ones, you can even use them to make these adorable pocket rockets. Much like the Alka Selzer rockets, Vitamin C DIY rockets get their propulsion from carbon dioxide bubbles that provide the thrust necessary to lift them off into the air. It’s quite simple, really. The more fizz, the more bang!
What You Need
- 1 empty film canister with lid
- 1 Vitamin C tablet (makes 2 rockets)
- Rocket template (I used this one and printed 2 copies scaled at 50%) or home-made drawing
- Clear tape
- Cut out the rocket template or decorate and cut your own own rocket drawing.
- Tape the template around the film canister, lining up the bottom of the rocket with the top of the film canister (where the lid is), as it will be upside down for launch. Make sure to leave an empty space to slide your fingers between the top of the rocket and the bottom of the canister, as you’ll need to be able to hold it tight to close the lid.
- Holding the film canister upright, fill it 1/3 with water.
- Add 1/2 tablet of effervescent Vitamin C.
- Close the lid tightly on the film canister.
- Time to launch! Lay the rocket on the grass and wait for 20 to 30 seconds. Pop goes the weasel!
#2 Vinegar and Baking Soda DIY Rocket
Image from IngridScience.Ca
You can never go wrong with vinegar and baking soda. The classic chemical reaction between an acid and a base is explosive and as the reaction occurs fast when both chemicals get in contact, adults should perform the last steps of the project.
What You Need
- 3 pencils
- Duct tape
- 1 cork (made from real cork) the size of the bottle opening
- Bicarbonate of soda
- White vinegar
- Empty soda or water plastic bottle
- Paper towel, tissue paper or cling film
- Tape the pencils around the bottle as shown to create a standing base.
- Fill the bottle 1/3 with vinegar.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of baking soda in the middle of the paper or cling film and twist it neatly like a candy or fold it so that it becomes a parcel small enough to fit through the bottle opening.
- From this moment on, please wear protective goggles!
- Slowly insert the baking soda parcel through the bottle and put the cork in.
- Launch time! Have everybody step back. Shake the bottle, place it in an open space at least 5 meters away from people and buildings, run back 10 meters and wait a few seconds.
Make your rocket more aerodynamic by adding a nose and fins! Super easy video tutorial here.
#3 Balloon DIY Rocket
This is a super easy project that you can whip up in 10 minutes flat and it’s great for backyard parties as well as potlucks at the park. The best part is that kids don’t need any adult help to do it as this rocket relies on air for propulsion. No chemicals involved!
What You Need (for each balloon rocket)
- Twine or string
- Drinking straw
- Clothes pin
- Measure the distance between two trees or a wall and a tree to know how long each piece of twine or string must be. That’s your rocket launch pad. Cut with scissors.
- Thread one straw onto the twine or string. Repeat for each straw.
- Take the string and pull it tight, then attach it at both ends of the rocket launch pad.
- Inflate each balloon until full but instead of closing it with a knot, twist the end and secure it with a clothes pin.
- Use tape to attach each balloon under a straw.
- Time to launch! Release the clothes pins at the same time and watch the balloon rockets zoom away.
#4 Bicycle Pump and Water DIY Rocket
Calling all biking dads and moms! If you have old punctured inner tubes at home and from your favorite bike shop, save them! In this project, an old inner tube becomes the centerpiece of a bicycle pump DIY rocket.
What You Need
- A big empty water or soda plastic bottle (1L or 2L)
- 1 inner tube (ask for discarded inner tubes at your local bike shop)
- Utility knife
- Hand or electric drill
- 1 cork (made from actual cork)
- 1 bike pump
- Check the opening of your water bottle. If the cork fits in it, great. If not, microwave it for 20 to 25 seconds. It will expand, become soft and you can then fit it inside the opening of your bottle. Remove when cold.
- Cut out the area around the valve of the inner tube, keeping only the actual metal piece with a bit of rubber around it.
- Drill a hole slightly smaller than the valve into the cork and insert the valve through the cork, keep the pumping end outside. This is your valve adapter.
- Fill the water bottle 1/3 with water and insert valve adapter.
- Time to launch! Attach the bike pump to the valve adapter, turn the bottle upside down, lean it against something, and pump away!
Make your rocket more aerodynamic by adding a nose and fins! This video tutorial uses similar principles for making a water rocket using a water bottle with a plastic lid, but I find it more complicated than the cork stopper as it includes a glue gun. Your choice!
#5 Soda Straw and Paper DIY Rocket
The simplest project of all is a soda straw rocket. From the diagram, you easily get how it works but if you have older kids, you can refine the concept by modifying the lengths of the nose cone and wings to find the optimal dimensions for flight. FYI, this is actually part of the Imagine Mars NASA project so because it’s simple, don’t discard this DIY rocket as an educating project for older kids keen on aerodynamics.
What You Need
- Soda straw
- Pick a target landing destination and a start line.
- Cut out a paper rectangle that will be the body tube of the rocket. Wrap the rectangle around a pencil, lengthwise, and tape the rectangle so that if forms a tube.
- Cut three triangular wings and align the rectangle between the three wings about 1/4 ” above the end of the body tube. Tape the wings around the tube so that they stick out from the tube and are evenly spaced.
- At the sharpened end of your pencil, twist the top of the body tube into a nose cone and tape it if needed.
- For scientific experiments, measure the nose cone from the base to its tip and record the length on the rocket itself.
- Remove the pencil and replace it with a soda straw.
- Launch time! rom the start line, angle the straw and blow into the straw to launch the rocket. Your goal is to get to your target destination!
Additional Free Unit Studies Resources on the Fourth of July
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Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.