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Water bottle rockets represent a unique method to engage students in the basic concepts of physics. With the expansion of technology, the water bottle rocket can now be customized with the use of computer aided design software and 3D printing modules. This lesson plan provides a suitable paradigm to instill the fundamentals of forces from lift to drag. Students will be able to construct water bottle rockets from the enclosed 3D printable materials or use the models as inspiration to create an idea to take flight. The water bottle rocket represents a motivating and inexpensive test to observe the effects of forces, the influence of weight, ability to generate thrust, and the effects of aerodynamic forces like drag.
The initial stages of the lesson involve the design/assembly of the rockets. Two types of wings are included in the lesson plan to observe the effects of aerodynamic forces: straight wing and curved wing. Assemble two water bottle rockets to demonstrate the effects of wing design. Use the provided nose cone for each rocket to eliminate variability between each winged rocket. Have students create a third rocket that utilizes a combination of wings and observe the effects at launch. If the class has access to CAD software, have each individual design a model of a wing. Since the rocket maintains a symmetric shape, only one wing needs to be designed. The single wing design can then be printed multiple times to create a unique water bottle rocket.
Not only can the wings influence the trajectory of the rocket, but the nose cone can affect the trajectory based on the application of aerodynamic forces. An additional experiment may involve designing different types of nose cones or using different infill percentages to test the effects of different weighted nose cones. For example, using the provided nose cone model, print three different versions with 10%,50%, and 100% infill. Pair these nose cones with standard wings (all flat or all curved) to create three water bottle rockets that only contain varied nose cones. As an additional challenge, have the students create their own nose cone to observe the effects of the respective design.