Bottle Rocket Project Instructions
The Bottle Rocket Project has been very popular with the students and the adults. These Bottle Rockets have
several significant features:
for the Plans for the Rocket.
- Since an empty water bottle is used to power the rocket, it is low cost and quite safe.
- The rockets can be launched over a hundred feet into the air.
- The rockets can be launched from a small area because the lack of a parachute results in them returning
to the area from which they were launched.
- A group of students can build and launch them in less than an hour.
The Bill of Materials for these Bottle Rockets is shown below:
Also, the following tools and supplies will be needed:
- 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper
- 2 inch thick piece of extruded polystyrene Styrofoam (i.e. this can be found in Lumber Yards as a
4 x 8 foot sheet of insulation)
- 3 x 5 inch index card
- An empty 20 ounce water bottle
Building the Bottle Rocket
- A 12 inch long piece of ¾ inch diameter CPVC tube for forming the tube of the rocket
- Glue stick
- Magic Markers, optional for the decorating the rocket. Permanent markers tend to bleed
less than washable markers.
- A 12 inch long piece of 1 inch diameter thin wall tubing (i.e. the ID of this tube needs larger than the OD of the ¾ inch diameter CPVC tube. The thinner the wall of the tube the better. This tubing can be purchased at a hardware store.) sharpened to cut out the nose of the rocket.
- A length of a wooden 2 x 4 with a 1 inch drilled in it to make it easier to cut the nose cones out of the Styrofoam
- A 12 inch long piece of ¾ inch diameter CPVC tube to push the Styrofoam out of the sharpened tube
- Sanding pad – fine grit for shaping the nose
- White glue, Aleene’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue is preferred because it dries quickly
- Pen or pencil
- Place an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper on the table.
- Roll this piece of paper tightly around the ¾ inch CPVC tube to form an 11 inch long tube.
- After you are able to get the piece of paper squarely aligned on the tube, unroll the paper until
the paper just covers the tube.
- While holding the tube with the paper wrapped around it with one hand, apply the glue stick to the
exposed piece of paper.   Be sure to apply glue to the edges and not glue the paper to the tube.
- Then tightly roll the piece of paper around the tube.   This rolled piece of paper should freely
slide on the tube.
- While the rolled piece of paper is still on the tube, now is good time to decorate the rocket with
magic markers and to mark the location at which the fins will be glued.   A jig for marking the
fin location marks can be made by made by taking a length of 1 inch diameter thin wall tubing and
sawing it in half along its length.
- Cutting the Nose Cone
- The outside diameter of the piece of 1 inch diameter thin wall tubing needs to be sharpened to make
the cutting edge (i.e. a belt or disc sander can be used if the tubing is aluminum.   A grinder
should be used if it is steel) and then polished.
- Place a piece of 2 inch thick piece of extruded polystyrene Styrofoam on a soft surface such as a
scrap piece of wood.
- Place the sharpened end of the tube on top of the insulation and perpendicular to the insulation.
Using a 2 x 4 that has a 1-inch hole drilled in it to keep the sharpened tube perpendicular to the
Styrofoam will make it easier to cut out the cylindrical piece.   To do this, hold the 2 x 4 in
one hand and the sharpened tube in your other hand.
- Gently push down on the sharpened tube While slowly turning it.   Keep the tube perpendicular to
the insulation and continue turning and lightly pushing until the sharpened tube breaks out on the other side.
- Pull the sharpened tube out of the insulation.
- Use a section of ¾ inch diameter CPVC tubing to push the Styrofoam cylinder out of the tube.
- This step may to easier to do for your students before the rocket building session takes place
rather than having them do it.
- Shaping the Nose Cone and Gluing the Nose into the Paper Tube
- Using a sanding pad shape the end of the Styrofoam Nose Cone cylinder.   Be careful not to squeeze
the end of the Nose Cone that will be glued into the Tube, as that will make it a loose fit in the
Paper Tube rather than a tight fit.
- Verify that the Nose Cone will be a tight fit into the Tube. If it is a loose fit, it will not seal
the end when it is glued in. If the fit is too tight, it can be squeezed slightly to reduce its size.
- Apply glue around the circumference of the Nose Cone where it will slide into the Tube and gently
slide it in.
- Wipe off any excess glue to make a seal between the Styrofoam Nose Cone and the paper Tube.
- Making the Fins
- Fold a 3 x 5 inch index card in half to form a 3 x 2 ½ inch rectangle.
- Cut the index card in half by cutting along the fold line.
- Fold each of the two pieces of cut index card in half to form two 2 1/2 x 1 ½ inch rectangles.
- Slide one the just folded pieces of index card inside the other one so that that the folds line up.
- To form the fins, cut these pieces of index card to the shape shown on the plans. The exact shape
of these fins is not critical.
- Gluing the Fins on to the Tube
- To make gluing the Fins on easier a jig can be made to hold the tube. The jig consists of a few
inches of ¾-inch diameter CPVC tube sticking out of a base.
- The fins are to be glued on to where the reference marks were previously put on the tube.
- The fins are to be glued on such that the bottom of the fins lines up with the bottom of the Tube,
(i.e. this makes it so it will sit on a table later), the fins are to be lined up with the
length of the tube and approximately opposite each other. Minimizing the amount of white glue
used will help it to dry faster. As a faster-drying alternative to white glue, hot melt glue can be used.
- Once the glue is dry, the rocket is ready to be launched.
- Making the Rocker Launcher
- To make the Bottle Rocket Launcher, follow the instructions on the attached pdf file.
for the Plans for the Launcher.
- Preparing to Launch the Bottle Rocket
- Attach the bottle on to the short end of the Launcher. The tube of the launcher should extend
into the bottle about as far as the bottle cap is tall.
- If the bottle is collapsed, blow on the other end of the launcher until the bottle has its original shape.
- Place the Bottle Rocket over the long end of the Launcher.   The Bottle Rocket should gently slide
down over the Launcher.
- Launching the Bottle Rocket
- Hold the Rocket Launcher so that the bottle is resting on the ground and the long tube of the Launcher
is straight up.
- To launch the rocket, stomp with one foot on the middle of the bottle.   Stomping on the neck or
bottom of the bottle will break the bottle.   When the bottle cracks it will need to be replaced.
- It is better to allow the rocket to land on its own rather than trying to catch it.   Trying to
catch the rocket often results in damaging the rocket beyond what is repairable.
- To launch another rocket it will be necessary to expand the collapsed water bottle back to its
original shape. This can be accomplished by blowing into the top end of the rocket launcher.
If when blowing into the top of the rocket launcher there is a leak, most likely the bottle
has cracked and needs to be replaced.