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Colonial Middle School students blast off into summer

Colonial Middle School students blast off into summer

Colonial Middle School sixth-graders had a blast on the final days of school launching rockets into the sky as part of their physics unit.

The hands-on experience was one where students worked as a team to design and launch their rockets, bringing a thrilling close to the school year. Using what they had learned about physicist Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion and the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy, the students were tasked with making two-liter water bottle rockets fly.

During the exercise, students partially filled bottles with water and then pressurized the air inside them using pumps. The pressure from the air on the water forced the water out of the bottle and pushed the bottle up. This demonstrated Newton’s third law, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Students could then see how the potential energy (which was the pressurized air in the bottle) was converted to kinetic energy as the air pushed the water out with great force. The rapid expulsion of water created thrust, propelling the bottle into the air. The more forcefully the air is ejected, the greater the thrust and the higher the bottle will fly. 

The teams were also able to see how their rocket design (aerodynamics) could affect the rocket’s trajectory. The shape and design of the bottle, as well as fins or nose cones added, could help to stabilize the rocket’s flight and reduce air resistance, leading to higher and straighter launches. Students used duct tape, masking tape, and cardboard to make their rockets. Some even used golf balls or dense materials in the nose cone.

Science teachers Bill Ryan, Tina Stoffel, and Kurt Womelsdorf guided students through the intricacies of rocket science and teamwork. The project not only ignited a passion for physics but also reinforced the importance of collaboration and creativity in scientific endeavors.

 "Working as a team to design the rocket was my favorite part of the lab," said Sadie S. 

Students show off their rocket before launching it
A student prepares to launch her team's rocket
A group of boys shows off their rocket
Students prepare to launch their rocket
Students prepare to launch their rocket