Launching Origami Rockets

Middle School students have been prototyping a standardized propulsion system for their origami rockets. Originally, students used lung power and plastic straws to launch the rockets, but they soon found there was too much variability in people’s lung capacity.

“We wanted to see if we could create a uniformly reliable way to propel the little rockets,” said Innovation Lab Manager Patrick Neary. “That way, the standardized propulsion would give us all a better idea about the aerodynamic properties of the individual origami techniques.”

To complete the project, students were given straws, recycled plastic bags, various sizes of plastic cups, masking tape, and (at a student’s suggestion) lemon juice and baking soda.

Origami Rockets

Sixth Grader Ryan Rose Grout measured and prepared baking soda and lemon juice to test a chemical propulsion for her origami rocket. “This was a great attempt to provide a more complex solution,” said Mr. Neary.

“At the outset, the students were pretty skeptical about how much they could actually accomplish with the basic materials that I provided,” said Mr. Neary. “However, just a few minutes into the class, all of the students were deeply engaged in figuring out how they could get their rockets to move. It was very gratifying to see that transformation, where the students became so completely focused on creating a solution to the challenge. Every student did successfully complete a prototype by the end of class, and some students actually created several variations following unsuccessful testing.”

Seventh Grader Cole Ramsey designed and prototyped a multi-chambered propulsion system. The chambers are intended to multiply the chemical reaction, producing a greater amount of gas than would a single, one-time mixture of baking soda and lemon juice.

Origami Rockets

Origami Rockets

Eighth Grader Jake Metz had multiple successful propulsion attempts using an inflatable plastic bag with multiple straws.

Origami Rockets

“The straws fed into a plastic cup, which concentrated the compressed air around the origami rocket contained within the cup itself,” said Mr. Neary. “A very unique and innovative solution!”

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