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  • Lesson Plan
    • Subject: STEM
    • Driving Question: How to construct a balloon-powered rocket?
    • Pedagogical Method: Engineering Design Process
    • Grade Level: 7,8,9
    • Duration: 120 minutes 
    • Delivery Method: Face to face
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    How to Make a
    Balloon Rocket

    How to make a
    Balloon Rocket

  • In STEM, teachers/mentors are part of a team. STEM is not hierarchic; there is no barrier between the mentor and the participants. The mentor’s role is to frame the challenge and guide learning. The philosophy of STEM is rooted in exploration, teamwork, and inclusion. This lesson plan is designed to support teaching and learning STEM.

    • Topics covered across subjects:

    Science: Forces and Interactions, Newton’s Laws of motion, Speed acceleration, Space and Astronomy, Pressure and fluids.

    Mathematics: Problem Solving, Data Analysis, fractions, SI units’ conversions

    Social Studies: NASA missions and space exploration

    • Materials: satellite model, general building supplies, rulers or meter sticks, binder clips or clothes pins, balloons, straws, 5-meter fishing line and tape

    • Cognitive Skills: Observing, communicating, measuring, collecting data, inferring, predicting, making models

    Also find the attached documents in the folder at the end of the page.
    • Define technology.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the Engineering Design Process.
    • Recognize design constraints.
    • Select the appropriate tools for an engineering task.
    • Propose and test a solution to a problem.
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of a product or design solution.
    • Construct a balloon-powered rocket using the engineering design process.
    Keywords: STEM, Balloon-Powered Rocket, Design, Create, Engineering
  • Tie one end of the fishing line at a table or a chair height and stretch the line across the space to another table/chair at the same level. 

  • Class Discussion
    Discuss ways in which students have experienced Newton’s Third Law: that for every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force. (Possible answers may include skateboarding, ice skating or rollerblading, running into something, kicking a ball). 
    • Ask them to list some objects that move fast. What do they have in common? (Possible answers may include race cars, speed boats, rockets; they all have a shape that allows them to move through air or water with little resistance.)

    • Show the video of a recent rocket launch.

    Design Challenge 

    Share the following design challenge with the students.

    “NASA delivers payloads (satellites, packages, and other instruments) to specific destinations in space. This is only possible because of rockets. The rocket is the launch vehicle that carries the material into space. 

    How can we model a rocket?

    An inflated balloon holds gas under pressure; hence, it resembles a simple rocket. Just like a rocket, the opening at the end of the balloon allows the high-pressure gas inside to escape to an area of lower pressure. As a result, the balloon moves in the direction opposite of the escaping gas. This is an example of Newton’s third law of motion.

    Newton's third law of motion states that for every action force there is an equal amount of reaction force, but in the opposite direction.

    You are on a mission to design a balloon-powered rocket to launch a payload into space. Design and build the fastest balloon-powered rocket possible that will travel the farthest distance.

    Knowing that both, the straw and the fishing line, can slide when placed in contact with each other, you must determine how to attach the balloon on the straw in order to launch it down the fishing wire.

    However, just like any other design, our design also has some constraints which are the following.

    • Between trials, you must change the length of the straw on your rocket. 

    • Once you have selected an appropriate straw length, select one other rocket element (variable) for your design and modify only that element during your remaining trials.”

    Engineering Design Process

    • Spend a few minutes asking students if they know what engineers do, then show the NASA’s video titled, “What is Engineering”. 

    • Define “engineer” for students: an engineer is a person who figures out how to make technologies. 

    • Discuss the Engineering Design Process with your students: 

    1. Ask a question about the goal.

    2. Imagine a possible solution.

    3. Plan out a design and draw your ideas.

    4. Create and construct a working model.

    5. Experiment and test that model.

    6. Improve and try to revise that model.

    • Ask the students, “How can we use the setup of the fishing line to launch a payload?” Point to students that one end of the line is the launch pad and the other end is the Moon.

    • Encourage students to ask the important questions about their design.

  • Have students take the time to imagine a solution for a balloon-powered rocket design.

    The following are examples. 

    Note that it is better that you do not show the designs to your students to foster creativity.

    Check the link below:

    1 URL
    • Have students draw their ideas. 

    • All drawings should be approved before building begins. 

    • Ask students to decide on the materials that they are going to need.

  • Challenge the students to build their rockets based on their plans. 

  • Ask students to:

    • Test their rockets using the tied fishing line.

    • Complete the data table and graphs as they conduct each trial launch in the worksheet.

    • After the first set of trials, allow students to make adjustments to their rockets. 

    • Ask students re-launch the rockets and record their data. 

    • Ask students to discuss how far their rocket traveled and which combination of variables gave the best results.

  • 1 URL