On a recent sunny October afternoon, crowds of students and teachers gathered at the baseball field of North Strabane Intermediate. Ms. Lauren Gonze and Ms. Lynne Douglas were providing a hands-on teaching experience to their sixth graders during their planetary science unit. Though everyone in attendance had a great deal of fun as students launched off the bottle rockets, a great deal of planning and learning also went into this exciting day.

Through the engineering and design process and research, the students identified the parts of a rocket and how each component impacts the rocket’s launch. From the company Pifsco, the body of the rocket was a two-liter bottle, the fins made of balsa wood or heavy cardboard, the nose cone a ping pong ball, and the engine fueled by water and air pressure. Using the forces that affect flight, thrust, gravity and drag, the students designed a rocket aiming to create the longest flight time.

The students worked in groups of three or four to create one rocket. It was about 10 days from introduction to launch day. As part of the project, students orally presented the choices they made when building the rocket and why they made them. After launch day, students reflected on the job of an engineer and whether they might want to pursue that career path. Ms. Douglas says it was exciting to watch the students during this project.

“It was exciting to watch the students work in groups to create their rockets. The students used research to draw conclusions about each step within the design process and therefore achieved success on launch day. I’m sure we have quite a few future engineers at North Strabane Intermediate School.”

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