Teach Engineering: Slingshot Rockets

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Step 1: Teach Engineering: Slingshot Rockets

EDIT: Long rubber bands or two short rubber bands tied together work much better than one short rubber band.

Lesson Plan:

Grade range: 1-5
Prep: 2/5
Setup: 1/5
Cleanup: 1/5

Prep: Bend paperclips, set up a firing range if confined indoors
Setup: Set up glue guns

Start-of-class lecture

  • Demonstrate the slingshot rocket
  • Show step-by-step how to build it
  • Explain the importance and function of the paperclip hook and the fins
  • Explain how to successfully launch the rocket
  • Discuss safety

How to launch the rocket. 1. Hold the slingshot straight up and in front of oneself. 2. Lower the bent paperclip onto the rubberband and pull back. 3. Hold the slingshot straight up and down, aim, then pull back and release.
Finally, show 

Safety, Tips and Troubleshooting

  • CAUTION! Don't allow your students to aim or shoot these rockets at each other or anything breakable. Inform your students of a zero-tolerance policy. If they intentionally aim their slingshot rocket at someone else, they will have their rocket revoked until the end of class.
  • If the rocket is flying in a corkscrew pattern and not achieving a satisfactory distance, check to make sure the fins are straight and even.
  • If the rocket is tumbling 'head over heels,' it could be that the rocket fuselage is too short.
  • If the rocket is getting caught on the slingshot, make sure that the hook is pointing downward when being loaded onto the rubberband.
  • Avoid firing the rocket directly into a hard surface - this may shatter the plastic straw. If this happens, it is easily repairable by wrapping tape around the break.
  • Establish a 'firing range,' in which students all stand on one end of the room and fire in one direction only. After students retrieve their rocket they should swiftly move to the side of the range before returning to this firing line. Picking up the rocket and pivoting to face the firing line can result in a crash-landing into someone's face. You may even want to have students simultaneously launch and retrieve their rockets.
  • Bring blocks, targets with point values, or any other creative addition to transform aimless shooting into a game of accuracy. Even a sheet of cardboard with a hole in the center makes a great target.

License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

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