Making Rockets in Somerset

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During the last week of February 2019 WESBath and Bath University Rocket Team (BRT) worked together to bring an outreach project to Haywood Village Academy School in Frome.   Eight of us, 3 from WESBath and 5 from BRT, presented an assembly to the school to kick off their Science Day, giving background information on rocket engineering, University of Bath Alumni NASA Astronaut Anne McClain and the importance of engineering in daily life. We then went on to work closely with the Year 4s for the rest of the day to complete the bottle rocket activity planned.

A WESBath student with school pupils in the classroom

The bottle rocket worked by filling a bottle part way with water and then increasing the pressure using a bike pump until the bottle is projected into the air. The first part of the task for the children was to discuss their rocket in groups of 3 or 4, and to come up with one favourite design, annotated with key features. Many of them jumped at the chance to design complex and brightly coloured rockets. As they got further into the task they realised they needed to consider things like the aerodynamics of the design, the size, shape and number of fins and the amount of fuel (water) they would need without weighing the rocket down.

Once they’d selected their design they presented to the rest of their class, showing off their new engineering vocabulary and understanding of forces. Each group was then given their rocket and left to create. It was remarkable how closely so many of their rockets followed their designs. They all overcame the challenges of creating a sturdy projectile with card, foam and sellotape.

The most exciting part for Year 4 was the launching of their rockets. One by one, after they had filled up with the amount of fuel they decided their rocket needed, the rockets were launched following an enthusiastic countdown and backed up with happy cheers, or groans for the ones that didn’t go very high.

One group holding their rocket

At the end of day assembly when the children were asked about their rockets they showed an amazing understanding of how the quantity water affected the performance, a half being too much, resulting in a straight but short flight, and a quarter being too little, with long, sideways flights. This showed they had drawn the correct conclusions from the launches. Haywood School had a very successful Science Day and we had a fun time teaching them about rockets.

Rocket project complete!

Mollie Purser 2nd Year student, MEng (hons) Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering

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