Jemma and Joe's air rockets

When they're not organising workshops in the LYSC, Jemma and Joe test their scientific skills against each other. See who can make the best rocket, then make one for yourself.

Do you have the engineering skills to take on Joe? Can you build a better space craft than Jemma? You might not have a bike pump launcher at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the action. Try this easy method, then go larger with the explosive rocket activity video below, from our ExpeRimental series.

What you'll need

Paper
Thick drinking straws
Tape
Scissors

What to do

  • Start by rolling your paper into a tube that fits snugly around the straw. To get the size of your tube right, roll the paper around the straw, tape it in place, then pull the straw out. This is the body of your rocket.
  • Next, seal off the top of your rocket with tape. You want to make sure that when air rushed up into the rocket, none of it escapes out the top.
  • Add a cone on top of the sealed end of the rocket, to help it fly through the air. To make a cone, cut out a circle of paper. Then cut a triangle wedge (to make a Pac-Man shape!). Bring the cut sides of the disc together and tape them up.
  • Finally, add some triangular fins to the back of your rocket to help it keep a straight course when it’s hurtling through the air. Then decorate!
  • To fire the rocket, slip it over the straw, aim, and blow hard into the straw. The air will take the rocket across the room!

Try making a few different rockets to investigate which designs work best. Does a larger rocket go further? Does it make a difference if you don’t include a cone on the top? 

Fizzy bottle rockets

Once you've created the perfect paper rocket, and seen how far you can launch it with your breath, try propelling a drinks bottle into the air with some fizzy tablets. Get all the instructions and download the information sheet here.