Daily Discovery: Straw Rockets

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Coordiantor. Activity adapted from NASA/JPL

Daily Discovery: Straw Rockets

Blasting off! Practice the engineering design process by creating your own soda straw rocket. Design, launch, and then modify features of your rocket just like engineers working on rockets today.

Rocket Design Background

Modern rocket design began near the beginning of the 20th century. While much has been learned and rockets have grown larger and more powerful, rocket designs are still improving. Engineers developing new rockets must control variables and consider failure points when improving rocket designs. By changing one variable at a time, engineers can determine if that change leads to an increase or decrease in performance.  They must also consider how their design might fail, and work to improve their design. These incremental changes allow engineers to improve rocket performance and increase the amount of mass they can lift into space.

Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Soda Straw (plastic or reusable)
  • Meter stick or meter measuring tape
  • Rocket template and data log (Printable PDF)

Instructions:

  1. Carefully cut out the large rectangle on the rocket template. This will be the body of the rocket. Wrap the rocket body around a pencil length-wise and tape it closed to form a tube.
  2. Carefully cut out the two fin units. Align the rectangle in the middle of the fin with the end of the rocket body, and tape it to the rocket body. Nothing should stick out past the bottom of the rocket body.
  3. Do the same thing for the other fin, but tape it on the other side of the pencil to make a “fin sandwich.”
  4. Bend the part of the fin that looks like a triangle 90 degrees so that each fin is at a right angle to its neighbor. Looking at the bottom of the rocket, the fins should look like a + .
  5. Twist and pinch the top of the rocket body around the tip of the pencil to create a “nose cone” for the rocket. Tape the nose cone to prevent air from escaping and to keep it from untwisting.
  6. Measure the cone from its base (right where it starts to narrow) to its tip, and record the length in your data log and the on the rocket itself. Once completed, it should be about 13 cm (or 5 in) tall.
  7. Remove the pencil and replace it with the soda straw.
  8. In your designated launch area, away from people and other hazards, blow into the straw to launch your rocket.
  9. Use a meter stick or measuring tape to measure the distance it travels. Record the distance of the launch in your data log.
  10. Now, try to improve your design! Make a new rocket by altering the template. Try different rocket lengths, fin shapes, or fin angles. Remember to only change one variable at a time to see how each rocket launch performs and compares to the original design. Repeat the steps above for every launch, record each design change, and rocket-flight distance in your data log.
  11. You can decorate your rocket for fun if you would like to as well!

Safety First: Launch in a place with a large open area. You may ask parent permission to move furniture to create space. Or, consider launching your rocket outside if that is an option for you.

 

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Fort Fund.

Continue Reading

Daily Discovery: Simple Machines – Engineering Challenge!

Post written by Hannah Curtis, Education Assistant.

Daily Discovery: Simple Machines – Engineering Challenge!

How can one person easily lift a 500 lbs. piano? We have the how and why behind the simple machines that help you do just that! Think like a mechanical engineer to create a design concept, build and test your own machines, and see what you can lift at home!

Mechanical Engineering and Simple Machines:
Mechanical engineering combines physics, material sciences, and mathematical principles to design, build and maintain machines and tools that help make our world move and improve the conditions the life.

Subdisciplines of mechanical engineering:
1. Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering: These engineers have the important job of understanding, and improving, product quality of complex industrial and infrastructure systems.
2. Mechatronic Engineering: These engineers create robot-type smart machines that can make their own decisions and be conscious of their surroundings.

Mechanical engineers work with highly complex systems and machinery, but can often involve simple machines in what they do. Simple machines have a few working parts that provide a mechanical advantage to make aspects of our lives easier. These include the wheel and axel, levers, pulleys, or an inclined plane.

How do they work?

A lever is a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy
load with one end when pressure is applied to the other. There are three classes of levers, and we see examples of all in everyday objects!

A pulley is a wheel and axel that guides or changes the direction of a rope, or reduce the force needed to move a load. Engineers can even use multiple pulleys to increase the mechanical advantage! There are three types of pulleys: fixed, moveable and compound. Each wheel rotates appropriately with the rope being pulled to reduce friction and increase mechanical advantage.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard
  • Writing utensils
  • Glue or tape
  • Random objects of varying weights
  • Paper tubes
  • String or yarn
  • Sticks and rocks
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Spools

Instructions:

  1. Find something in your house that you want to use as your load (an object to lift) this could be heavy or light.
  2. Use what you now know about simple machines, and engineer a way to move or lift your object effectively.
  3. Continue your research into other simple machines to assist in your design concept. Will you use pulleys, levers, wheels and axels, wedges, or maybe a combination?

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Continue Reading

At Home Education Resources

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

At Home Education Resources

Here at FCMoD, we believe in education. And during times like this, we want you to know that education can be found anywhere and learning does not stop!

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended education resources during this time. Learn more below!

  • Whether you’re in the mood to virtually explore ancient Rome, read past presidents’ personal papers or download coloring pages from dozens of international cultural institutions, this roundup has you covered. Check it out here!
  • The Adler Planetarium  shared this awesome #MuseumAtHome resource: 10 experiments from their “Let’s Do Science” series!
  • Here’s another awesome virtual resource for staying engaged with cultural institutions!
  • Have you ever wondered how space exploration impacts your daily life? NASA has put together this website about just that!
  • Missing Little STEAMers? Us too. But we found this handy resource of 100+ indoor craft activities for kids!
  • Speaking of online resources, here’s 13.8 billion years of history online for free!
  • Missing Storytime in the Dome? How about storytime in space?! Check out the latest storytime in space reading.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

Continue Reading

At Home STEAM Activities

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

At Home STEAM Activities

Here at FCMoD, we believe in discovery. And during times like this, we want you to know that discovery can be found anywhere! Which is why we’ll be posting fun, hands-on activities for you and any other life-long learners you’re currently at home with!

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our top STEAM resources. Learn more below!

  • Water Xylophone:

Missing the Music & Sound Lab? Let’s experiment with sound waves! With just some basic materials you can create your own musical instrument to teach kids about sound waves. In this water xylophone experiment, you’ll fill glass jars with varying levels of water. Once they’re all lined up, kids can hit the sides with wooden sticks and see how the pitch differs depending on how much water is in the jar (more water=lower pitch, less water=higher pitch). This is because sound waves travel differently depending on how full the jars are with water.

    • Materials Needed:
        • Glass jars
        • Water
        • Wooden sticks/skewers
        • Food coloring
  • Tornado in a Jar:

    Create your own Tornado Chamber at home!  This is one quick and easy and science experiment for kids to teach them about weather. It only takes about five minutes and a few materials to set up. Once ready, you’ll create your own miniature tornado whose vortex you can see, and the strength of which you can change depending on how quickly you swirl the jar.

    • Materials Needed:
      • Mason Jar
      • Water
      • Dish Soap
      • Vinegar
      • Glitter (optional)
  • Wheel of the Year:

    To help connect kids more with nature and the changing seasons check out the Wheel of the Year crafts – crafts that actually spin! This was a really fun way to learn more about the year, months, and seasons.

    • Materials Needed:
      • Paper plates
      • Construction paper
      • Colored craft sticks
      • Thumbtack
      • Scissor
      • Ruler
      • Marker
      • Glue stick
      • White glue
      • Tape
      • Clothespin
      • Paper (to write month names and draw images)
  • Dinosaur Fossils:

    We love dinosaurs! These DIY dinosaur fossils made with salt dough are so fun. Plus, who knows, it may even inspire someone to become a paleontologist in your home!

    • Materials Needed:
      • Flour
      • Salt
      • Water
      • Plastic dinosaurs
  • Crystal Flowers:

    Have you ever tried making crystals yet? There are quite a few ways of making them, and we’re so keen to try them all!

    • Materials Needed:
      • Borax (laundry detergent alternative)
      • Pipe cleaners
      • Boiling water
      • Glass jars
      • Chopsticks/Pencils
      • Spoon
      • Safety glasses (preferred)

Other resources for at home activities:

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all! When you’ve completed any of these STEAM activities, be sure to post a photo and tag us at @focomod on social media!

Continue Reading