Brief Description: Students will learn about aerospace engineering and rocket design. They will then design, build, and launch their rockets.

Grades: K-5

Time: 1 hour

Keywords: aerospace engineering, aerodynamics, rockets

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will learn about aerodynamic design
  • Students will build rockets


  • Toilet paper/paper towel tubes
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Dixie cups
  • Rocket Launcher (2 liter bottle attached to a PVC pipe. Students place their rocket on the pipe and then stomp on the bottle to launch their rocket)


  1. Discuss aerospace engineering and aerodynamics.
    1. Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft.
    2. Aerodynamics is the study of the properties of moving air, and especially of the interaction between the air and solid bodies moving through it.
  2. Introduce the four forces that act upon aircrafts.
    1. Lift is the mechanical force created as a solid object moves through the air.
    2. Drag is the force that acts opposite to the direction of motion. Drag is caused by friction and differences in air pressure.
    3. Thrust is the force that propels a flying machine in the direction of motion. In a real airplane, engines produce thrust. With paper airplanes, the throwing motion of our arms provides the thrust.
    4. Gravity or weight acts in a downward direction.
  3. Aerodynamic forces are used differently on a rocket than on an airplane. On an airplane, lift is used to overcome the weight of the aircraft, but on a rocket, thrust is used in opposition to gravity/weight. On many rockets, lift is used to stabilize and control the direction of flight. While most aircraft have a high lift to drag ratio, the drag of a rocket is usually much greater than the lift.
  4. Today, students will be designing Rockets that will then be launched. What are some features they know about rockets that they think makes them aerodynamic?
  5. Allow students to build their rockets.
  6. When everyone is done building, allow students to test using the rocket launcher.
  7. Wrap up and discuss. What rocket worked the best? What did not work? What shapes were most aerodynamic?

Extensions and Modifications

  • Pop Rockets: Use film canisters and antacid tablets to create small pop rockets.
    • Do this activity outside
    • Fill the film canister with water and place a fizzing antacid tablet inside it. Then put the cap on and set it upside down on the ground. Eventually, the pressure from the expanding gas will build up and the cap will pop off and go flying into the air.


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