I had another chance on Tuesday this week to play with soda-bottle water rockets, which I have not done since my son was taking home-school physics and we wrote the timing program for measuring the ascent of the rockets that later turned into PteroDAQ to go along with the homemade Lego “superpulley”.
My wife volunteered me to help out at the Spring Hill School’s Family Science Night—a tradition I started 9 years ago (here are my notes from the 2 years I ran it). She had thought I could set up the “Dr. K’s Applied Electronics” display I’d used at the Mini Maker Faire, but I didn’t have the time it would take to set up the display (over an hour, to do it right). Instead, we agreed to revive the soda-bottle water rockets, which are always a hit with elementary-school kids.
I raced home from running the pulse-monitor lab for the Applied Electronics course, loaded up my bike trailer with empty mineral water and soda bottles, a couple of floor pumps, and some rocket launchers. My wife also brought a few copies of the instructions for making the PVC launchers, though not the Spanish-language version, which we first created in 2001, when my son was in kindergarten (a post I wrote in 2011 talked a bit about the activities I did with the Kindergarten kids to explain how rockets worked).
The rockets were a big hit at Family Science Night last night, though the kids preferred the commercial launcher that I believe I bought from Arbor Scientific (which can be seen in the superpulley post and the water-rocket simulation posts 1 and 2). Nonetheless, several families did take instructions for making the simple PVC launchers, with the intent of doing it as a fun project this summer.
It was fun to do the science outreach, though I only managed to talk with one family about how rockets worked, and it gave me a good excuse for not doing any grading that night (after 3 days of doing not much besides grading, teaching, and supervising the students in lab, a night supervising kids sending up soda-bottle water rockets was a welcome relief).