The 8th grade physical science classes at Calera Middle School recently constructed and launched rockets to demonstrate their knowledge of Newton’s laws. The rocket launch, held Friday, February 20, encompassed four weeks of learning in the classroom and laboratory. Student lab groups competed against other groups to build the highest-flying rocket.
According to teacher Christopher Oravet, the rocket activity was designed to further enrich students’ understanding of the fundamental laws of physics.
“In addition to classroom learning, students have had the opportunity to participate in several labs to increase their understanding of the forces that govern our world,” said Oravet. “Lab activities ranged from measuring the effects of surface area on friction using force meters, to constructing mousetrap powered cars to visualize acceleration.”
Students were given the necessary materials to build their rockets. When students constructed their rockets, they needed to apply their knowledge of Newton’s laws – fluid friction, surface area, air resistance, speed, and acceleration – in order to build a high-performance rocket. During the rocket launch phase, students were able to see momentum, inertia, speed, acceleration, and balanced / unbalanced forces in action.
General physical science classes constructed water-powered rockets using plastic bottles. They had to decide on the size, shape, and position of stabilizing fins. To do this, they had to apply their knowledge of fluid friction and surface area to mitigate the effects of air resistance.
Pre-AP physical science classes built model rocket kits that are powered by Estes rocket motors. These classes had to decide on the position and number of stabilizing fins to reduce drag and increase rocket height. To calculate the height of their launches, students used tangent calculations. One large rocket was also equipped with a mini camera, to record footage of the liftoff from the rocket’s perspective.
“To learn these calculations, I collaborated with their advanced math teacher, Chelsea Rutledge, who also helped oversee their data collection on launch day,” said Oravet.
Oravet said now that the rockets have been launched, the students will now graph their results and create an acceleration graph to visualize the flight of their rockets. Lab groups will present their findings to the class to help develop their presentation skills. They will be allowed to use presentation and graphing software available on our science lab Chromebooks.